PSG beats Nice 3-0 to close in on league title
PARIS (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain closed in on the French league title Sunday with a 3-0 victory over Nice that restored its nine-point lead over Marseille.
With just five rounds left, the big-spending French club now looks unstoppable in its attempt to win a first league crown since 1994.
Jeremy Menez gave PSG the lead from close range in the 10th minute, and striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic doubled the lead by converting a penalty in the 65th. Substitute Clement Chantome then rounded off the win in the 88th, leaving PSG on 70 points after 33 games.
Marseille has 61, while Lyon is another two points behind in third.
“This match was very important because keeping a nine-point lead means the title is getting closer,” PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti said.
Earlier Sunday, Lille kept pace in the race for a Champions League spot by defeating Bastia 2-1 to stay three points behind Lyon. Also, Nancy beat Evian 3-1, Sochaux drew 2-2 with Bordeaux, Lorient won 1-0 at Toulouse and Valenciennes defeated Reims by the same scoreline.
Rennes’ game against Troyes and Saint-Etienne’s match against Ajaccio were postponed to Wednesday after Saint-Etienne beat Rennes 1-0 in the League Cup final on Saturday to end a 32-year title drought.
PSG was under pressure after Marseille beat Brest 1-0 on Saturday and third-place Lyon edged Montpellier 2-1 on Friday.
Ibrahimovic nearly gave PSG the lead after four minutes when he hit the post. Unlucky with his finishing, the Sweden striker instead took on the role of playmaker. He made a cross for Javier Pastore, who chipped the ball over Nice goalkeeper David Ospina to feed Menez, and the France international just had to tap in.
Menez was quite wasteful during the rest of the game despite outstanding service from Ibrahimovic. The Sweden striker knocked a high ball down for his teammate in the 27th, but he was denied by Ospina.
Ibrahimovic then cut the ball back for Menez, who miskicked from eight yards in the 52nd. Taking another pass from Ibrahimovic, Menez again missed the target in the 78th.
PSG finally netted the second after Ospina was betrayed by a heavy touch and ended up tripping Ezequiel Lavezzi inside the area to be sent off.
From the spot, Ibrahimovic beat substitute goalkeeper Joris Delle.
PSG dominated the closing minutes with its numerical superiority. Thiago Silva burst from the back to feed Ibrahimovic, but the Sweden striker’s low effort was saved by Delle in the 80th.
Ibrahimovic then played a one-two with Matuidi to set up Chantome, who netted from close range.
“It’s very easy to find the motivation because the title is very close,” Ancelotti said. “It’s very important for everybody at this club to win this season after a 19-year (league title) drought. We’re very close, we need six points in our next five matches. Everybody is very focused.”
Nice’s only scoring chance came in the 23rd when Kevin Anin’s header from a corner was tipped over by goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu.
“We lacked a bit of efficiency and a bit of presence. We didn’t dare enough,” Nice coach Claude Puel said. “It’s a pity that we conceded that penalty and that ejection which put an end to our ambitions.”
Lille got the winning goal through Montenegro defender Marko Basa in the second minute of stoppage time when he slid home a cross from Benoit Pedretti.
Bastia forward Wahbi Khazri opened the scoring by firing into the top corner from the edge of the box in the 47th minute. But Lille fullback Lucas Digne equalized with a powerful strike from 25 yards in the 85th.
In the battle for survival, Nancy winger Benjamin Moukandjo took advantage of Evian’s poor marking to score from corners in the 66th and the 80th.
Paul Alo’o Efoulou tapped in a cross from Moukandjo to put Nancy ahead in the 21st. But Evian striker Saber Khlifa equalized in the 34th by dribbling past goalkeeper Damien Gregorini to slot into an empty net.
Nancy went level on points with Evian to move out of the relegation zone.
Sochaux dropped to 18th place after letting Bordeaux striker Cheick Diabate head in a cross from Henri Saivet in the 80th.
Algeria international Ryad Boudebouz gave Sochaux the lead by converting a penalty in the 34th after Bordeaux defender Maxime Poundje had handled the ball.
Bordeaux came back in the 53rd with a bouncing half-volley from rightback Mariano before Sochaux forward Cedric Bakambu made it 2-1 from a tight angle in the 67th.
Lorient striker Jeremie Aliadiere notched his 15th goal this season by scoring the winner. The former Arsenal forward tucked the ball into an empty net in the 78th after Toulouse goalkeeper Olivier Blondel came off his line and missed his interception.
Valenciennes snapped an eight-game winless streak as Gregory Pujol swept home an offering from Gael Danic in the 58th.