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Montpellier go top in wide open French league

Unfancied outfit Montpellier climbed to the top of France's Ligue 1 with a 1-0 win over Nice on Saturday, but with the top six teams all within three points of each other next week's leader could be anyone's guess.


AFP - Montpellier became the latest side to occupy the summit of the French first division in a wide open season with a 1-0 win at Nice on Saturday.

Striker Olivier Giroud's goal seven minutes from time earned Montpellier the win which lifted them on to 24 points.

Earlier Paris Saint Germain had consolidated their standing as legitimate title contenders with a comfortable 2-1 win over Caen at the Parc des Princes, a result that lifted Antoine Kombouare's side into second place on 23 points.

Guillaume Hoarau put PSG into a 40th-minute lead with his Franco-Turkish teammate Mevlut Erding following up five minutes after the restart.

Caen reduced the deficit via Moroccan Youssef El Arabi ten minutes from time but the hosts held on to move up from fourth to first on 23 points.

They lead on goal difference from Rennes, who kept the wheels on their title challenge with a 2-1 win over surprise highflyers Brest, who went into the weekend's action leading the pack.

Whilst far from dazzling PSG put up a solid performance in a match that the PSG of not so long ago could have easily lost.

Among the players to shine was defender Mamadou Sakhol, emboldened from his first run out with the France national team in Wednesday's encouraging 2-1 win over England at Wembley.

This was just the result PSG needed ahead of next week's assignment at Lyon, who are away to Lens on Sunday, followed by Spanish side Sevilla's Europa League visit.

After struggling to break down Caen's tight defence Hoarau's header with five minutes of the first half remaining broke the deadlock for his fifth goal of the season.

Defender Sylvain Armand's long clearance then found a waiting Erding, who easily beat Caen's keeper Alexi Thebaux to net his fourth goal of the campaign.

Caen were looking dangerous on the counter attack and got some reward for their spirited performance and a string of missed opportunities when El Arabi produced a fine shot from the left into an empty goal - his tenth of the season to lead the scoring charts.

Rennes meanwhile took the honours against Brest in the first derby between the Brittany neighbours since 1990.

Rennes boast the tightest defence in the league, conceding only their ninth goal of the season in the second minute of injury time.

But by then, thanks to Jires Kembo-Ekoko's 39th minute opener and Jerome Leroy's contribution in the 80th minute Rennes had already all but sewn up the points to share the summit with PSG.

Brest are fourth, albeit only one point adrift.

In this wide-open season another early trailblazer, Saint-Etienne, had to settle for a share of the points after their 1-1 draw with Auxerre to leave the two sides on 19 points apiece.

This was Auxerre's eighth game without defeat and it teed them up nicely for their Champions League date with AC Milan next week.

Marseille meanwhile had trouble seeing off tenacious Toulouse, with Nigerian defender Taye Taiwo missing a penalty and only Andre Ayew's goal two minutes from time earning the visitors' the points which lifted them to third on goal difference above Brest but with a match in hand.

This victory served as a timely confidence booster ahead of Marseille's awkward away day against Spartak Moscow in the Champions League next week.

Elsewhere, Nancy defeated Valenciennes 2-0 to move out of the relegation zone while Sochaux saw off Lorient by an identical scoreline.

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