Lille close on Champions League return after Lyon stalemate

Paris (AFP) –


Lille moved a crucial step closer to a return to Champions League football on Sunday with a 2-2 draw at Lyon while Saint Etienne inflicted more misery on Monaco to give their hopes of a top three finish a massive shot in the arm.

A point from a thrilling encounter consolidated Lille's hold on second and an automatic ticket into the Champions League group stages with three Ligue 1 games remaining.

Saint Etienne's 3-2 win over 2017 champions Monaco earlier had provisionally moved them above Lyon who reclaimed third spot a point above their arch regional rivals to remain six points behind Lille.

A first appearance in the group stage of Europe's elite club competition since 2012/13 is now looking likely for Lille, while Lyon scrap for third and entry to the qualifying stages with Saint Etienne.

Lyon took the lead via former Lille player Martin Terrier in the first quarter of an hour.

Lille drew level five minutes after the restart. Jonathan Ikone crossed into the area, Lyon defender Jason Denayer failed to clear with the ball bouncing off Ferland Mendy to Loic Remy who neatly outmanoeuvered Anthony Lopes to tap home into an empty net.

Nicolas Pepe was instrumental in putting Lille into a 68th minute lead when his freekick to the far post found Boubakary Soumaré who flicked the ball over Lopes from a tight angle after another error by Leo Dubois, who shortly after made up for his lapse with the equaliser.

Christophe Galtier's team can wrap up second place next weekend.

Earlier, Gelson Martins put Monaco into an early lead with Fode Ballo-Toure's own goal on 59 minutes drawing Saint Etienne back level. Goals from Remy Cabella and Arnaud Nordin sealed the victory, Carlos Vinicius grabbing an injury time consolation for the hapless hosts.

This is dream time for Saint Etienne who despite being France's most decorated side last appeared in the Champions League in 1981.

With fifth-placed Montpellier held by Amiens earlier Les Verts are at the very least all but assured of Europa League action next season.

Monaco's 16th loss of a wretched campaign meanwhile left the 2017 champions precariously placed just three points above the relegation zone.

The sight of their Croatian goalkeeper Danijel Subasic hobbling off injured will only have served to deepen the gloom enveloping Leonardo Jardim's side.

Elsewhere, Rennes failed to replicate the heroics of slaying PSG in last weekend's Cup final, and are in danger of finishing out of the top 10 for the first time since 2014 after a 2-2 draw at Toulouse which extended their winless run in Ligue 1 to eight matches.

On Saturday, PSG's dismal run continued as Edinson Cavani missed a stoppage time penalty for the French champions in a scrappy 1-1 home draw with Nice.