Ben Arfa keeps Nice in Champions League hunt

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Nice’s French forward Hatem Ben Arfa (right) scores a penalty kick during the French L1 football match Nice vs. Reims on Saturday at the “Allianz Riviera” stadium in Nice, southeastern France. AFP PHOTO

Nice’s French forward Hatem Ben Arfa (right) scores a penalty kick during the French L1 football match Nice vs. Reims on Saturday at the “Allianz Riviera” stadium in Nice, southeastern France. AFP PHOTO

PARIS: Hatem Ben Arfa once again inspired Nice as they beat Reims 2-0 on Friday (Saturday in Manila) to stay right in the running for Champions League qualification from Ligue 1.

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Ben Arfa set up Valere Germain for an 11th-minute opener and then netted from the penalty spot on 56 minutes as Nice climbed provisionally above Lyon and into third spot in the table.

Their only defeat in their last seven matches came away at Paris Saint-Germain and Claude Puel’s side are a point above Lyon before their game at Toulouse on Saturday.

Ben Arfa’s delightful pass left on-loan Monaco forward Germain with a simple finish for the opening goal and his 12th of the campaign.

Ben Arfa then set off on a trademark mesmerizing dribble into the box early in the second half and won a penalty when he was caught by Anthony Weber.

The France international forward converted the spot-kick to take his tally for the season to 17 goals and condemn Reims to a fourth defeat in five matches that leaves them just two points above the relegation zone.

They will drop into the bottom three if Gazelec Ajaccio beat Bastia in a Corsican derby on Sunday, when second-placed Monaco travel to Rennes.

Champions Paris Saint-Germain are not in league action this weekend, instead taking on Lille in the League Cup final at the Stade de France.

Meanwhile, Ligue 2 leaders Dijon were promoted to the top flight without playing after results elsewhere went their way.

With four games still to play, the Burgundy club are now guaranteed to return to Ligue 1, a level they last graced in 2011-12.

AFP

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