Title contenders Lyon and Marseille both lose
PARIS (AP) -Title contenders Lyon and Marseille both lost on Sunday to allow Paris Saint-Germain to open up a gap at the top of the French league.
Lyon took the lead away to Ajaccio before losing its discipline in a 3-1 away defeat, and Marseille then lost 1-0 at home to visiting Nancy, which was in last place before the match.
Marseille had midfielder Joey Barton sent off 15 minutes into the second half but that was not a reason for the defeat, as the home side hardly created a chance and again conceded a sloppy goal from a set piece.
"We were rubbish tonight, sometimes there's nothing you can say,'' an angry Marseille winger Mathieu Valbuena said. "We didn't do all we could to win the game, and they were quite simply better than us. Once again we conceded a goal from a set piece. We had to take three points tonight and we have no right to play like that, no right.''
PSG had little trouble thumping Toulouse 4-0 on Friday night and leads Lyon by three points and Marseille by six with 15 rounds remaining.
"We didn't even deserve a draw, we showed nothing tonight,'' Marseille right back Rod Fanni said. "We were badly organized and there was a serious problem tonight. It's a big blow for us, but once again we were wasteful because we didn't keep things simple.''
Nancy's win moved it off the bottom and four points away from 17th-place Sochaux. The winning goal came from a corner and underlined Marseille's defensive weakness as goalkeeper Steve Mandanda totally missed the ball and it bounced off winger Andre Ayew on the back post for an own goal.
Mandanda's handling error last week allowed Rennes to sneak a 2-2 draw in the closing minutes.
In a drab first half, Marseille struggled to break down Nancy's well-organized defense, and the visitors almost took the lead midway through the half when Paul Alo'o Efoulou's volley from a corner was cleared off the line.
Marseille striker Andre-Pierre Gignac shrugged off center half Sebastien Puygrenier's challenge and tried his luck with a snapshot, but goalkeeper Damien Gregorini spread himself well to keep out Marseille's best chance. Moments later, Alo'o Efoulou found space on the right of the penalty area and his shot was saved by Mandanda.
On a bad night for Marseille, Barton was sent off for a second booking, and Valbuena kicked the bench in frustration as he was taken off with 15 minutes remaining. Barton's red card was harsh as neither challenge was dangerous and there was barely any contact.
"Players who roll around when nobody touches them should be subsequently banned. I hate cheats. Authorities should address it,'' Barton said on his Twitter page. "Two very harsh yellows. First one wasn't even a foul. We will bounce back from this.''
Nancy almost doubled its lead in the 86th but Mandanda batted away shots from substitute Jeff Louis and from Romain Grange.
"I think we deserved it, we had a few chances,'' Nancy coach Patrick Gabriel said. "We didn't steal the win, although it took quite a long time to come.''
Earlier, veteran striker Adrian Mutu scored two second-half goals as Ajaccio came from behind.
Forward Alexandre Lacazette gave Lyon the lead in the 53rd minute when he volleyed in a cross from the left, but midfielder Chahir Belghazouani equalized for the Corsican side four minutes later.
Mutu put Ajaccio ahead in the 65th and then added a last-minute penalty for his seventh league goal of the season after Lyon center half Dejan Lovren was sent off for bringing down forward Dennis Oliech as he burst through.
Lyon coach Remi Garde sounded defeatist about his team chances of overtaking PSG in the title race with 15 rounds left.
"Honestly, PSG are in a different league to us. We will try to hang on in there as long as possible, but we can't only look ahead of us,'' Garde said. "Our objective is to finish in the top three, and we have some serious rivals.''
Moments before Mutu's second goal, Lyon had missed the chance to equalize from the penalty spot when Guillermo Ochoa tipped Bafetimbi Gomis' spot kick wide. But more than the miss itself, it was Lyon's inability to assert itself on the game after taking the lead that irked Garde.
"At 1-0, we stopped playing. We thought we'd done the hard work and had the three points in the bag,'' Garde said. "I thought that we had to try and score again rather than just sit on our lead. I don't have a team that can do that, and you saw that today.''
After Ajaccio's equalizer, Lyon started to panic and defended sloppily. Mutu was left unmarked to head home from the penalty spot and then expertly sent goalkeeper Remy Vercoutre the wrong way from the penalty spot.
Montpellier climbed up to eighth place with a 3-1 win against visiting Reims, which took the lead through winger Gaetan Courtet in the 34th.
The home side hit back with goals from striker Souleymane Camara, and midfielders Marco Estrada and Younes Belhanda.
"We only have the league to focus on now,'' Montpellier coach Rene Girard said. "We're going to have a tough game at Saint-Etienne next, where we won't have a lot of pressure on us. We'll go there to get a good result.''