Lille beats PSG 2-1 to maintain slim title hopes
PARIS (AP) -Eden Hazard scored the equalizer and then helped create the winner with a moment of magic as defending champion Lille beat 10-man Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 on Sunday to keep alive its slim title hopes and dent PSG's chances of catching Montpellier.
Hazard canceled out Javier Pastore's second-half goal with a clinical penalty in the 71st minute and was involved in substitute Nolan Roux's winning goal in the 79th. PSG played the last 20 minutes with 10 men after Mamadou Sakho's sending off for conceding the penalty.
"We lost the match when we were in total control and could have scored a second goal,'' PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti. "Of course we're disappointed. Now we have to look ahead of Wednesday's match (against Saint-Etienne). The title isn't over yet, but we have to be strong.''
Montpellier now has the initiative, but third-place Lille can have a say in the title race.
"We have four matches left, four finals, so we'll see,'' Lille coach Rudi Garcia said. "We have a tough game against Nice first.''
Montpellier now leads PSG by five points - and has a superior goal difference. Lille is seven points behind Montpellier, but they still have to play each other.
The match opposed Pastore, the French record signing at ?42 million euros, and ?32-million rated Hazard, who is one of the most sought-after talents in Europe and was again watched by scouts for Manchester United and Manchester City.
"The coach always tells us to turn up for the big games, and I think we did that tonight,'' said Hazard, whose 17th league goal of the season puts him three behind top scorer Olivier Giroud of Montpellier. "It's nice that I'm so close. There are four matches left, it would be great to finish top scorer.''
Pastore hit the crossbar with a volley midway through the first half, and the Argentine gave PSG the lead with a well-taken goal in the 48th. Hazard equalized from the penalty spot in the 71st after a clumsy mistake from Sakho.
Sakho was shown a straight red card and PSG lost all its composure as Lille poured forward.
Hazard's individual brilliance led to Roux's goal.
The ball was behind Hazard's left leg when he wrapped his right foot around and flicked the ball into the penalty area toward Brazilian striker Tulio De Melo, who nodded it back across goal for Roux to nod home.
"I didn't hesitate, and when it comes off it's even better,'' Hazard said.
PSG took the lead when Kevin Gameiro burst down the right and his cross was palmed away by goalkeeper Mickael Landreau, but the loose ball bounced up near the penalty spot and Pastore's looping header beat the stranded Landreau.
"We had to be strong mentally, because we went a goal down early in the second half against one of the best teams in France,'' Garcia said. "We didn't panic and kept on playing our way. Joe Cole and Roux did us a lot of good when they came on.''
Lille started well and PSG goalie Salvatore Sirigu kept out an early header from Melo.
Moments after Pastore hit the bar, Hazard responded with a fizzing drive from the edge of the penalty area that bounced off the post.
Gameiro missed a great chance to make it 2-0 in the 64th when he sprinted clear and shot just wide.
But Lille was gifted a chance when Sakho slung his arm across to block Roux as he sprinted through and gave away a needless penalty.
Hazard took a short run-up and, although Sirigu guessed the right way, he failed to stop Hazard's 17th league goal of the season.
Earlier, fourth-place Rennes beat struggling Ajaccio 3-1 to win its fourth consecutive league game.
Winger Julien Feret gave Rennes the lead in the 27th minute after defender Samuel Bouhours was earlier ejected for a dangerous tackle from behind on Jonathan Pitroipa.
Forward Abdoulrazak Boukari made it 2-0 in the 85th, before Brazilian striker Ilan got a goal back for Ajaccio.
Midfielder Yacine Brahimi sealed the win for Rennes in injury time.
"We're in good form, but we've probably got the hardest run-in of all the teams going for third place,'' said Rennes coach Frederic Antonetti, whose team still has to play Montpellier and PSG.
Ajaccio is one place above the relegation zone with four matches left.
In Sunday's other matches, last-place Auxerre thrashed Brest 4-0.
Edouard Cisse, Olivier Kapo, Alain Traore and Roy Contout scored for Auxerre, which remains rooted to the bottom but is only three points behind 17th-place Ajaccio.
Saint-Etienne striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's 14th goal of the season was enough for a 1-0 win against Dijon.
Also, it was: Nancy 1, Caen 1; Sochaux 0, Bordeaux 3, and Valenciennes 2, Nice 0.