Monaco stalemate hands initiative to Nice

Paris (AFP) – Surprise package Nice can stretch their lead at the top of Ligue 1 to six points on Sunday after Monaco could only labour to a 1-1 draw at Saint-Etienne. 

Unbeaten Nice host struggling Nantes knowing that victory would propel them clear in the French league, with Monaco now second, ahead of Paris Saint Germain only on goal difference in what looks increasingly like a three-way title fight.

Monaco went ahead in Saint-Etienne after only five minutes on Saturday thanks to centre-back Kamil Glik, but the home side pulled level just 13 minutes later through defender Loic Perrin’s bullet header.

Monaco were marginally the better side without creating enough clear-cut chances.

Their best opportunity came two minutes into stoppage time, but Saint-Etienne goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier was down smartly to save from Gabriel Boschilia after the Monaco substitute jigged his way to find rare space in the box. 

Earlier, 10-man Lyon survived a late onslaught to earn a 2-1 away win at high-flying Toulouse with Alexandre Lacazette scoring both goals.

It was just Lyon’s fifth win in 11 league outings this season, after coach Brunio Genesio was handed an ultimatum last week by club owner Jean-Michel Aulas to notch up 31 points before the winter break or face the chop.

Last year’s runners-up now have 16 points with eight games still to come before Christmas.

Lyon star striker Lacazette, 25, opened the scoring with a nervously struck spot-kick on 15 minutes against the run of play.

Toulouse’s central defender Christopher Jullien then produced a towering header, rising above the Lyon back four to meet a free-kick to level the game on 26 minutes.

But after the break Lacazette sped past two defenders to latch onto a long ball, skip round the 17-year-old Toulouse ‘keeper Alban Lafont and fire Lyon back in front on 52 minutes.

“Consistency makes all the difference at a big club and makes an institution strong,” Aulas told French television after the game.

“And I’d like to extend his contract,” he said of Lacazette, who scored his 100th and 101st goals for the club to underline his prowess in front of goal.

Montpellier had to scramble youth players to make up the numbers for their match at Lorient after gastric flu swept an already injury-depleted squad.

“Five of our players came down with gastroenteritis on Friday night,” a Montpellier statement said.

To their credit Montpellier, struggling around the relegation zone, came from two goals down  to eke out a 2-2 draw at Lorient, who stay bottom.

On Friday a thunderous second-half strike from Edinson Cavani gave Paris Saint Germain a 1-0 win over Lille, as the French champions were made to fight all night.

It was a real moment of magic from 29-year-old Cavani as the Uruguayan controlled Angel di Maria’s pass with his chest, swivelled and unleashed an unstoppable shot for his 10th league goal of the campaign.

Nice have 26 points from 10 games, ahead of Monaco and PSG, who both have 23 points but have played a game more.

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