PSG beats Saint-Etienne to close in on Montpellier
PARIS (AP) -- Paris Saint-Germain cut Montpellier's lead at the top of the French league to three points after a 2-0 win against Saint-Etienne on Wednesday in which Nene and Javier Pastore both scored.
Nene opened the scoring with a penalty midway through the first half, and Pastore sealed the win in the closing stages of the match.
PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti made several changes to the team which lost 2-1 at Lille on Sunday, recalling midfielder Mathieu Bodmer and left back Sylvain Armand and restoring Christophe Jallet to right back.
"It's a very important win for us. I'm happy to score even if I didn't have my best game,'' Pastore said. "Anything can happen now. Nobody thought Montpellier would slip up, but they did. It's not over yet, we will fight until the end.''
Montpellier was five points clear of PSG after last weekend's matches but drew 2-2 at home to Evian on Tuesday. Both teams have three matches remaining.
"I think the title will go right to the last day,'' Ancelotti said. "After we lost to Lille everyone thought we would finish third. PSG can still do something this season. I hope the players will play to the best of their ability, like they did tonight.''
PSG took the lead in the 21st minute when Jeremy Menez cut in from the right and smacked a shot wide, but referee Said Enjimi awarded a penalty even though Sylvain Marchal's challenge on Menez appeared to be after he had shot.
Nene sent Stephane Ruffier the wrong way from the spot for his 17th league goal of the season.
PSG dominated the rest of the first half.
Menez cut in from the right in the 30th and struck a low shot against the post. Ruffier then saved Bodmer's volley after good work from Nene down the right.
Saint-Etienne missed a good chance to equalize in the 52nd when Bakary Sako set up top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but he pushed the ball too far as he went past Ruffier and the angle was too tight.
Ruffier kept out a low drive from Pastore moments later, and the Argentine midfielder wasted a golden chance to make it 2-0 when he whacked Nene's pass over the crossbar from just inside the penalty area.
But he made the game safe in the 88th when Jallet crossed from the right and Pastore surged forward to blast the ball past Ruffier.
Earlier, defending champion Lille kept alive its slim title hopes by winning 1-0 at Nice after Eden Hazard set up Tulio De Melo's early goal. Lille is five points behind Montpellier, but they still have to play each other.
"It's a good night for us. We have the right to dream,'' Lille captain Rio Mavuba said. "To stand a chance (of winning the title) we'll have to win every game left.''
Hazard, who has been valued at ?32 million and linked to bigger European clubs, jinked down the wing and floated over a perfect cross for the Brazilian striker to head into the net in the sixth minute.
Lyon, which won the French Cup last weekend, strengthened its grip on fourth place with a 4-1 thrashing of Valenciennes. Argentine striker Lisandro Lopez scored twice, with captain Cris and forward Jimmy Briand also scoring.
Lyon now leads fifth-place Rennes by two points after it lost 2-0 at Bordeaux, which scored through midfielders Ludovic Obraniak and Landry N'Guemo. Rennes has played one game more than Lyon.
Mid-table Marseille won in the league for the first time since Jan. 29, with Loic Remy's first-half effort securing a scrappy 1-0 home win against Nancy.
"We'd almost forgotten what it was like to win a match,'' Marseille coach Didier Deschamps said. "The most important thing is that we've put an end to this atrocious spell, which was far too long and unbearable.''
Ajaccio came from behind to beat fellow struggler Sochaux 2-1, securing a vital win in its relegation battle. Forward Sloan Privat put Sochaux ahead in the 58th, but Sochaux defender David Sauget was sent off moments later.
Christian Kinkela leveled from the penalty spot before Richard Socrier scored Ajaccio's winner in the 85th.
Also Wednesday, it was: Brest 0, Toulouse 0, and Caen 1, Lorient 0.
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