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Marseille misses chance to take French league top spot

Video by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2008-12-15

Marseille missed a chance to go top of the French league table after a goalless draw with Lyon on Saturday. Lyon remain in the top spot, but are now only three points ahead of Marseille.

AFP - Lyon ground out a goalless draw on Sunday at their Stade Gerland over title rivals Marseille to preserve their three-point lead at the top of the French league as they chase an eighth straight title.

Marseille, without a championship crown since 1993, could have gone joint top of the heap with a win but will head back to the deep south frustrated after failing to close the gap in a tense affair.

Despite Lyon's recent dominance, Marseille have actually had the better of recent meetings between the two - they have now won two and drawn three of the last six encounters.

But more pertinently, Eric Gerets' side have only eked out two points from their past four league games while also exiting the Champions League.

The visitors had in playmaker Hatem Ben Arfa a man desperate to make an impression against his former club - the French international was a regular last season but used too sparingly for his liking in previous campaigns and decamped to the Stade Velodrome last summer.

However, he was unable to provide the spark of inspiration to earn his colleagues a win bonus.

And even though Gerets went for the jugular in a formation including Baky Kone, Ben Arfa and three attacking midfielders in Boudewijn Zenden, Mathieu Valbuena and Karim Ziani they were unable to pinch the points.

Marseille were left to rue misses in an entertaining opening period which saw home keeper Hugo Lloris save well in quick succession from Zenden and Valbuena.

On the plus side they showed great defensive rigour in closing out Lyon's usually dangerous France international striker Karim Benzema and Brazilian playmaker, who were all but suffocated by the visitors' backline.

Lyon thus lead the way after 18 games with 35 points ahead of a trio on 32 - Bordeaux, Paris St Germain and Marseille themselves with Rennes a point further back and Toulouse in sixth a point behind them.

Bordeaux had kept in touch Saturday with a 3-1 win at Le Mans while PSG also moved into the fray with a 2-1 success at Auxerre.

Earlier Sunday, Lille bolstered their hopes of a UEFA Cup spot with a 1-0 win at Nice which took the northerners into seventh spot, level on 29 points with their vanquished hosts who missed a chance to go joint second.

Michel Bastos scored the only goal on eight minutes.

Le Havre seem destined for the drop following a 3-1 home reverse against Lorient, who are three points adrift of Nice.

Date created : 2008-12-14