Leaders Montpellier held as French League race intensifies

French league leaders Montpellier were prevented from pulling three points clear at the top of Ligue 1 after being held to a 1-1 draw by visiting Toulouse on Saturday.

Updated: December 18, 2011 09:49 IST
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French league leaders Montpellier were prevented from pulling three points clear at the top of Ligue 1 after being held to a 1-1 draw by visiting Toulouse on Saturday.

The hosts took the lead but could not hold out until half-time, however, as Cheikh M'Bengue drew Toulouse level with a fine goal five minutes before half-time.

The Senegalese left-back intercepted a loose ball and surged forward before bending a sweet right-footed shot around Montpellier goalkeeper Geoffrey Jourdren from just outside the box for only his second Ligue 1 goal.

Etienne Capoue cleared off his own goal-line twice as Toulouse hung on, while the visitors finished the game with 10 men after Franck Tabanou saw red for two bookings late on.

"I'm a bit disappointed because we deserved better," said Girard. "One team tried to play. I'm not sure that Toulouse played much.

"If we hadn't given them that gift in the first half, I don't know if they'd have managed to unsettle us."

Having lost 1-0 at Valenciennes last weekend, Montpellier are now only a slender point clear of PSG, while Toulouse remain in sixth place.

PSG can return to the summit with victory over defending champions Lille in the game of the weekend on Sunday, amid rumours that mooted PSG signing David Beckham will be in attendance at Parc des Princes.

At Stade Velodrome, Mathieu Valbuena rode to Marseille's rescue once again with a glorious equaliser and an injury-time assist in a 2-1 win over nine-man Lorient that kept Didier Deschamps's side in eighth place.

Lorient had Lamine Kone sent off for a last-man foul on Loic Remy in the 33rd minute but went ahead with 13 minutes to play when substitute Innocent Emeghara nutmegged Nicolas N'Koulou and rounded Steve Mandanda to score.

Valbuena scored a memorable winning goal at Borussia Dortmund earlier this month and he repeated the trick with six minutes remaining, bending a fine strike in off the crossbar from 22 yards out.

A surreal finale saw Remy hit the bar and Alaixys Romao sent off after receiving a second booking for dissent, before Benoit Cheyrou converted Valbuena's free-kick to claim a 95th-minute winner.

"There were 15 crazy minutes at the end of the match," said Deschamps.

"It's good to keep believing until the end but we can't afford to dream either. If it turns out like that every time, fine, but I'd like us to control the game a bit better."

Lyon beat Evian 2-1 to claim their fifth consecutive victory in all competitions and provisionally climb above Lille into third place.

Jimmy Briand's opener for Lyon was cancelled out by Yannick Sagbo shortly before half-time but a back-post header from Lisandro Lopez in the 70th minute gave the hosts victory.

Both sides finished with 10 men, with Lisandro's replacement, Clement Grenier, sent off for a ragged foul on Aldo Angoula and Fabrice Ehret following suit after tripping Bafetimbi Gomis.

Elsewhere, Anthony Mounier scored twice as relegation-threatened Nice won 2-0 at home to Valenciennes to climb above their opponents into 18th place.

Nancy left the relegation zone, climbing to 15th on the back of a 2-1 win at Caen, while goals from Florent Sinama-Pongolle and Max Gradel gave Saint-Etienne a 2-1 success at Dijon that moved Les Verts up to fifth.

A first-half Bruno Grougi penalty brought Brest a 1-0 win over Auxerre, who had Kamel Chafni sent off following an altercation with an assistant referee.

Chafni claimed he had been racially abused by the official and Auxerre president Gerard Bourgoin called on France's Professional Football League (LFP) to launch an investigation.

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