French-league leader Lyon failed to do better than a 1-1 draw in Rennes. Bordeaux has the opportunity to stand four points from the leader if they win on Sunday against Caen. Marseille snapped the third place with a 2-1 win in Metz.
Metz's slender hopes of playing first division football for the second straight season disappeared on Saturday with a 2-1 loss to Marseille seeing them slip through the relegation trap door.
Cedric Barbosa gave the home fans at the Stade Saint-Symphorien some hope when putting Metz into a three minute lead but Marseille hit back through former Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse and Samir Nasri for their 22nd defeat of the campaign.
With a mere 19 points to their name Metz' position is hopeless with an uncatchable 16 point gap to the fourth from bottom club, Paris Saint Germain with only a maximum 15 points left to play for this term.
Marseille moved up to 55 points and go third on goal difference ahead of Nancy, beaten 2-1 at Lille.
Metz coach Yvon Pouliquen, summing up the sombre mood, said: 'Disappointment is everywhere after this defeat. I'm upset at the result but not with the manner of the defeat. Marseille scored twice from three chances in the match, that efficiency made the difference."
His opposite number, Eric Gerets, was in an altogether happier frame of mind.
"To go third, even if it's on goal difference with Nancy, is fantastic. We made things difficult by producing an average performance so the joy is huge not to have lost or even drawn."
Leaders Lyon, stunned by Marseille last weekend, were held to a 1-1 draw in front of their home supporters at the Stade Gerland after an injury time equaliser from Rennes' Stephane Mbia.
In a mediocre game played on a poor pitch Brazil striker Cris put the French giants in front when heading home a 16th minute corner taken by Juninho.
France international Karim Benzema, missing in the 3-1 loss to Marseille but now back from injury, hit the bar after the break.
Rennes were subdued in attack until the closing stages when the visitors burst into life with Mbia exploiting lax defending by slotting in a 92nd minute corner at an unattended near post.
"A draw seems fair," said Rennes coach Guy Lacombe. "In the first half we conceded a goal and then they were only intent on conserving their lead when we converyerd one of our chances."
His assessment was largely shared by Lyon manager Alain Perrin who ventured: "The result frankly is hardly illogical given that we allowed Rennes back into the game in the second period. At home this is the same as a defeat."
With this status quo Lyon lead Bordeaux by seven points with the second-placed side out to cut into that advantage when they play Caen on Sunday.
Le Mans were entitled to give themselves a large pat on the back after an emphatic 3-0 success at home over Auxerre which pushed them up two places to sixth.
Mamadou Samassa, Anthony Le Tallec and Stephane Sessegnon were the heroes for Le Mans whose manager Rudi Garcia reflected: "This is a great night as it's a largest win at home. The players have reacted well after a pretty difficult period."
Down at the other end of the table fifth from bottom Toulouse did their hopes of staying up a power of good with a 2-0 win at Monaco.
But Strasbourg, in the mire after back to back losses to PSG and Monaco, went down again, this time to a 2-0 defeat to mid-table Valenciennes.
That left the northeasterners one off the bottom on 35 points, level with third from bottom Lens, beaten 1-0 by Lorient, and PSG.
A home loss against Nice on Sunday would leave PSG staring at the drop after a dismal season whose black clouds did not lift even with last month's League Cup final win over Lens.
Date created : 2008-04-13