PARIS: Monaco’s hopes of Champions League football next season got a boost with a 1-0 win over Nice on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) as Lyon rekindled their European challenge by beating Angers 3-0.
On a stormy, tense day in Ligue 1, seven players were red-carded in seven games.
The Riveria derby clash between the second and third placed teams failed to ignite Monaco’s Stade Louis II before midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko struck after 81 minutes.
A long free-kick off the boot of Portuguese midfielder Moutinho found Bakayoko who slotted in after the ball had bounced in front of Nice goalkeeper Yoan Cardinale.
The win allows Monaco, second behind runaway leaders Paris Saint-Germain, to move six points clear of Nice, who remain third, two points ahead of Angers with Lyon moving up to fifth a further point back.
Monaco’s Moroccan midfielder Nabil Dirar was sent off after he vigorously disputed a call by referee Tony Chapron, as Angers were also playing a man down following a 16th minute red card for Thomas Mangani.
“The players showed that apart from PSG, there is no team better than us. We know each other well, we know how to play at 10 and showed this,” said Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim. “The players had a great match.”
“Paradoxically, the sending off seemed to do them good,” said Nice coach Claude Puel.
“If they continue to be successful like that they can even envisage catching Paris,” added Puel of Monaco who trail Paris Saint-Germain by 21 points.
The reigning three-time champions will be looking to extend their Ligue 1 unbeaten streak at bitter rivals Marseille on Sunday.
Lyon secured back-to-back league wins for the first time since November and gave new coach Bruno Genesio a first league victory away from home.
Last season’s runners-up took an early lead through Christophe Jallet, and the hosts fell two behind when winger Rachid Ghezzal picked out the roof of the net just after half-time.
Corentin Tolisso wrapped up the scoring late on as Lyon moved to within three points of the Champions League places.
“It is satisfying to have a second consecutive victory and what was important is the way we found confidence as a team,” Genesio said.
“I am not sure that it was a better performance than in the defeat at Saint Etienne or the draw with Marseille, but with our first real chance we got the opening goal and that is always so important now in Ligue 1.”
With eight of the bottom nine teams in action in the five late Saturday kick-offs it was unsurprisingly a tense evening of football.
Montpellier blew a great chance to haul themselves out of the bottom three as they were held to a 1-1 draw by ten-man Lorient.
Francois Bellugou was given a straight red card, and Kevin Berigaud took advantage to give Frederic Hantz’s Montpellier a half-time lead.
But Jimmy Cabot scored his first goal for Lorient since joining from Troyes last month to snatch a point.
Reims made the most of Montpellier’s slip-up as they saw off Caen 2-0.
Goals from Thievy Bifouma and Prince Oniangue helped take Olivier Guegan’s Reims three points clear of the relegation zone.
Bastia picked up a much-needed victory by easing past bottom club Troyes 2-0 despite having a man sent off for the fifth time in five league games.
Goalkeeper Jean Louis Leca’s red card was sandwiched by a Floyd Ayite brace for the Corsicans, as visiting Troyes were reduced to nine men in a feisty encounter.
Gazelec Ajaccio are now winless in six league games and just a point above the drop zone after playing out a goalless draw with fellow strugglers Guingamp, who had Lionel Mathis kick off the pattern of the night with his 10th minute dismissal.
Meanwhile, a 0-0 stalemate with Nantes leaves Toulouse second-from-bottom and six points from safety.