Football: Lyon overcome travel sickness to extend lead
Lyon stepped up their quest for a seventh straight French league title on Saturday with a 1-0 away win over Lille.
PARIS, March 3, 2008 - Lyon stepped up their quest for a seventh straight French league title on Saturday with a 1-0 away win over Lille in a match watched by a French league record crowd at the Stade de France.
Brazilian striker Fred bagged the only goal after 32 minutes of a tense
encounter with a fine drive which gave Lille keeper Tony Sylva no chance to
take the champions onto 55 points from 27 games - six ahead of Bordeaux, who
tackle Paris St Germain on Sunday.
Lyon put an end to a ragged stretch of away form in securing their first
success on their travels since November 24 to end a Lille run of ten matches
without defeat in all competitions.
The champions began cautiously before a 75,000 crowd at the scene of
France's 1998 World Cup triumph before ultimately prevailing.
Lille had played at the venue three times previously, winning once -
against Manchester United - and drawing twice in Champions League action,
though this season they stand just four points above the drop zone.
The leaders were keen to emerge unscathed from this domestic battle four
days before they seek to keep their European flame flickering by improving on
a 1-1 Champions League home draw against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
"They'll be the favourites on their own patch. But we'll go there with a
view to containing them," said Lyon keeper Gregory Coupet, glad for a clean
sheet after his recent return from injury.
Lyon have had plenty of nervous moments on their travels in recent months
and coach Alain Perrin has been seeking to add some steel to their
Midfielder Juninho appeared to have heeded the message as the normally
placid playmaker was booked for a tackle from behind on Mavuba.
Following a first half which brought little of note save for the goal
Pierre-Alain Frau went close to levelling, taking aim from the edge of the
six-yard area but Cris managed to get back to clear in extremis.
Lille then lost Frau, taken off on a stretcher after colliding with Coupet
just before the hour mark.
Perrin elected to withdraw Benzema, who scored a fine goal in the Champions
League home leg with United, in favour of fellow emerging star Hatem Ben Arfa
but that only seemed to inspire Lille and veteran Dutch striker Patrick
Kluivert in particular in the final half hour.
The former Ajax and Barcelona man, now 31, hooked an ambitious effort wide
after 64 minutes as Lille stepped up the pressure and then turned to send
another shot fizzing just wide two minutes from the end but Lyon held out.
Later Saturday, Nancy will seek to stay in touch in third spot with a win
at eighth-placed Lorient and Marseille will try to vault into the top four
with three points at home to Auxerre.