Marseille dig deep to keep pressure on PSG and Lyon

A single point separates the top three teams in Ligue 1 after Marseille climbed back to second with a hard-fought 1-0 home win over plucky Evian on Saturday.

The victory was secured when Andre-Pierre Gignac converted a 49th minute penalty, for his 14th goal of the season, after referee Frank Schneider awarded Marseille a controversial spot-kick when Dimitri Payet took a slight knock in the box.

Lyon are still top on 48 points ahead of their clash with resurgent Monaco on Sunday, but Marseille are breathing down their necks on 47 points.

Paris Saint-Germain also have 47 points in third place.

Marseille lost their south coast derby at Nice last weekend and had been tipped to cruise past Evian at the Velodrome.

Although they were rampant at times, Evian’s work-rate stifled them for long periods.

Young French hope Florian Thauvin had a Marseille goal disallowed for a harsh off-side decision against his strike partner Gignac while Payet saw his sumptuous long-range shot sail inches over the bar.

But the visitors were also denied what appeared to be a certain penalty early in the match.

“If I say anything about that I’ll end up before a disciplinary commission,” said Evian coach Pascal Dupraz.

Four of the five later matches on Saturday ended in draws with Lorient versus Montpellier ending 0-0 in a game notable for the heavy snow and the half-time hot air blasters to mark out the lines of the pitch.

Bastia drew 1-1 at Lens and continue to climb away from the relegation zone but were denied three points by a late penalty which ‘keeper Alphonse Areola got a hand to only to see the ball spin over him into the goal.

Lille took a share of the spoils at Nantes in a 1-1 draw, Metz and Nice ended scoreless and Toulouse beat Reims 1-0 at home.

On Friday, Ezequiel Lavezzi scored the only goal as champions Paris Saint-Germain edged Rennes 1-0 rounding off a fabulous piece of teamwork from the capital outfit.

The goal came on 29 minutes after a neat interchange of passes down the left between Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was involved twice, Adrien Rabiot and Javier Pastore.

This maintained their unbeaten Ligue 1 home record and more importantly cut the gap on Lyon to just one point.

The win was PSG’s sixth consecutive home win in all competitions while stretching their Ligue 1 record at the Parc des Princes to eight wins and three draws.

Sunday’s game at the Louis II stadium on the Cote d’Azur promises fireworks with Lyon and Monaco, the two in-form teams in the top flight.

Lyon are riding a seven-match winning streak while Monaco haven’t tasted defeat in seven games with both teams’ defences proving especially frugal.

Monaco haven’t conceded a goal in some 700 minutes while Lyon have yet to leak a goal in 476, a run of over five matches.

The top two teams from France automatically qualify for the Champions League while the third-placed team must negotiate qualifying, a hurdle Lille failed to clear this season.

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