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Xeka gets Lille back winning before Chelsea Champions League showdown


Paris (AFP) – Portuguese midfielder Xeka scored the only goal as Lille warmed up for their Champions League last 16 clash against Chelsea with a 1-0 success at Montpellier on Saturday as Lyon denied Nice a chance to move second in Ligue 1.

Xeka struck with a quarter of an hour to go on the French Riviera as the reigning champions bounced back after last weekend’s humiliating 5-1 home defeat to Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain.

“It was important to bounce back and move forward. This win gives us breathing space,” said Lille coach Jocelyn Gourvennec after back-to-back defeats to Brest and PSG.

“We’ll have a difficult match at home against Metz. The Chelsea game follows so we mustn’t lose sight of our objective.”

Lille host newly-crowned Club World Cup winners Chelsea in their Champions League last 16 first leg on February 22.

PSG on Friday stretched their huge lead at the top of the table to 16 points before second-placed Marseille play at Metz on Sunday.

Kylian Mbappe’s injury time winner sealed a 1-0 win for PSG over Rennes before their Champions League knockout round showdown with Real Madrid.

Nice missed the chance to pull second ahead of Marseille after a 2-0 defeat at Lyon, who move sixth.

Moussa Dembele converted a penalty after eight minutes for the hosts in Lyon with Karl Toko Ekambi adding a second seven minutes after the break.

Nice had slipped to third after losing at home to lowly Clermont last weekend, with Lyon moving closer to their objective of Champions League football.

Peter Bosz’s Lyon are equal of 37 points with fifth-placed Rennes, who are ahead on goal difference.

Lille are eighth, two points behind Rennes and Lyon, and one-point ahead of Montpellier.

In a hard-fought clash, Lille’s Turkish centre-forward Burak Yilmaz gave his side a lift after coming off the bench for the final half an hour.

Xeka broke through after 77 minutes sending in a rebound off a blocked Benjamin Andre effort. 

Before than Lille could thank goalkeeper Leo Jardim for not conceding a goal on the road for the first time this season.

Brazilian Jardim denied Montpellier captain Teji Savanier, back from a three-match suspension, Junior Sambia, and Florent Mollet scoring opporunities in the first half.

Montpellier fell to their fourth defeat in five matches, and risk dropping to midtable at the end of the weekend. 

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