By Chris Burke
Three quick-fire goals moved Olympique Lyonnais a step closer to their fourth consecutive Ligue 1 title as they overcame local rivals AS Saint-Etienne 3-2 at the Stade Gerland on Saturday evening.
Paul Le Guen's Lyon displayed all the ruthless efficiency of champions to win the 87th derby between these two sides despite struggling for most of the first-half to break down their opponents. Les Verts seemed to be soaking up any pressure, but two minutes into added-time Sylvain Wiltord lifted his shot over goalkeeper Jérémie Janot to put the home side in front.
Saint-Etienne were stunned, and a minute after the restart they were two goals down when Florent Malouda blasted the ball high into the net. Pierre-Alain Frau added a third two minutes later, and it proved to be crucial as the visitors hit back through Pascal Feindouno and Lilian Compan. They were unable to save their side's 13-match unbeaten record, though, as Lyon moved nine points clear at the top.
AS Monaco FC saw their own title hopes fade as they fell 12 points back after losing the Côte d'Azur derby 2-1 away to OGC Nice. David Gigliotti gave Didier Deschamps' side hope when his second-half scissor-kick cancelled out Florent Balmont's opener for Nice, but Brazilian substitute Ederson lobbed in the winner from all of 35 metres to seal Monaco's first defeat since November.
Jérôme Rothen's return after four months out was a happy one as Paris Saint-Germain FC registered their first win of the year. Playing at home to SC Bastia in front of an empty stadium as a sanction for crowd trouble, Selim Benachour hit his 65th-minute penalty straight down the middle to secure a 1-0 victory that takes PSG up to 12th.
FC Girondins de Bordeaux, in eleventh place, threw away a two-goal lead at home to SM Caen, with Sébastien Mazure and Anthony Deroin on target to salvage a precious point for the relegation-threatened Normandy side. FC Nantes Atlantique also helped their survival chances by beating RC Strasbourg 2-1, while AC Ajaccio drew 0-0 at home to RC Lens.
On Sunday, Olympique de Marseille can reduce the gap at the top to six points if they overcome bottom-club FC Istres at the Stade Vélodrome.
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