Montpellier beats Rennes 2-0 to move clear of PSG
PARIS (AP) -- Montpellier took a big step toward winning the French league title for the first time on Monday, beating Rennes 2-0 to move three points ahead of second-place Paris Saint-Germain.
Montpellier needs a win and a draw from the remaining two matches to guarantee finishing above big-spending PSG, which hasn't won the league since 1994. A draw for Montpellier will be enough if PSG loses this weekend, or a win if PSG draws. If both win their games, the league will go down to the last day and could end up being settled on goal difference.
PSG's 4-3 win at Valenciennes on Sunday had pulled it level at the top, and the onus was on Montpellier to respond.
"We were under a bit of pressure but we dealt with that,'' Montpellier midfielder Geoffrey Dernis said. "We've shown that we have a lot of character and that we're mentally strong.''
Striker Souleymane Camara atoned for an injury-time penalty miss against Evian last week by putting Montpellier ahead in the 26th minute. An own goal from Rennes goalkeeper Benoit Costil made it 2-0 early in the second half.
At the final whistle, coach Rene Girard hugged president Louis Nicollin, who has owned Montpellier since 1974.
"We controlled the game,'' midfielder Jamel Saihi said. "It's looking good for us, although it's not over yet.''
Defending champion Lille also won Monday, beating Caen 3-0 to move within two points of PSG.
Montpellier faces Lille at home and PSG takes on Rennes in Sunday's games.
"This match is going to be like a final for us. We're good enough to win over there, but I don't know if that will be enough,'' Lille coach Rudi Garcia said. "Now we've secured at least third place and we're hungry for more. The players are even more motivated.''
Montpellier, which was missing key midfielder Younes Belhanda through suspension, was up against it early on. Rennes almost took the lead in the 13th minute when Jonathan Pitroipa hit the crossbar with a bicycle kick.
But Camara had missed a penalty with the last kick of the game in the 2-2 home draw with Evian, but he made up for that with his ninth league goal of the season.
Rennes defender John Boye was at fault for the goal, failing to properly tackle striker Olivier Giroud and inadvertently poking the ball to Camara, who swept the it into the net from near the penalty spot.
Montpellier went 2-0 up in the 52nd when winger Remy Cabella's strike hit the post, bounced off the back of Costil and went in.
Earlier, Tulio De Melo scored twice to at least secure Lille a place in next season's Champions League qualifying round.
De Melo scored from the penalty spot and with a header in the first half before winger Dimitri Payet wrapped up the win in the 60th.
Lille took the lead in the 26th minute when Benoit Pedretti's pass sent Eden Hazard through on goal, and he was fouled by goalkeeper Alexis Thebaux.
Hazard normally takes Lille's penalties, but he let De Melo take it and his spot kick went in off the underside of the crossbar.
The Brazilian forward scored his second of the game 10 minutes later when he headed in Payet's corner, and Hazard then went close with a free kick from 30 yards out.
Thebaux made a fine save to deny Payet in the 58th, but Payet ran onto Hazard's superb pass and beat him two minutes later to wrap up a comfortable win.
Auxerre's relegation fight took a turn for the worse when it lost 4-2 at home to Bordeaux to drop to last place.
Bordeaux raced into a 3-0 lead after forward Yoan Gouffran scored twice in the first five minutes and center half Ludovic Sane headed in a cross from Ludovic Obraniak by the 10th.
"When we went 1-0 down we didn't know how to react, and then Bordeaux scored two more goals,'' Auxerre defender Cedric Hengbart said. "We were in a black hole for 10 minutes.''
Gouffran hit the crossbar in the 17th after Edouard Cisse's poor backpass landed at his feet, but midfielder Jaroslav Plasil made it 4-0 in the 47th after collecting a pass from Brazilian winger Jussie.
Auxerre salvaged some pride with former France forward Oliver Kapo pulling two goals back.
Sebastien Roudet scored in the 85th to give Sochaux a 1-0 win against Nancy to move out of the relegation zone.
Goalkeeper Steve Mandanda made several fine saves to earn Marseille a 0-0 draw at Saint-Etienne.
Also, it was: Lorient 0, Dijon 0 and Toulouse 0, Nice 0.
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