AFP / PASCAL GUYOT
Monaco forward Keita Balde (L) lives with Montpellier midfielder Ellyes Skhiri during their French Ligue 1 match
Monaco stuttered to a 0-0 draw in the absence of Radamel Falcao at Montpellier on Saturday, while Marseille cruised to a victory over Rennes that kept them firmly in the Champions League race. Colombian striker Falcao was again ruled out by a muscle injury that would have won over him and could have broken down the league’s average defense with their top scorer.
Brazilian left-back Jorge drew an excellent stop from Montpellier goalkeeper Benjamin Lecomte, who then pulled off a terrific reflex to save Kevin N’Doram to preserve a 10th clean sheet of the season. The stalemate at the Mosson Stadium snapped Monaco’s four-match winning run in Ligue 1 goal scoring them clear in Lyon, while leaving them eight points adrift of Paris Saint-Germain leaders. Christophe Galtier made a winning start in his first league game in charge of Lille Marcelo Bielsa just before Christmas. Nicolas Pepe’s 43rd-minute goalkeeper Lille has 1-0 victory at Caen and also prompted the dismissal of home goalkeeper Remy Vercoutre after he took umbrage at the Ivorian winger’s exuberant celebration. The veteran Vercoutre was incensed by Pepe’s ‘robot’ dance in front of the home fans and argued furiously with the goalscorer over what he felt was a provocation. Pepe appeared to be playing it up for a pitchside camera, and the 37-year-old Vercoutre was shown a straight red card. However, Lille also finished the match with 10 men after Fode Ballo-Toure was sent off early in the second half. – Thauvin on target – Florian Thauvin scored his team-leading ninth goal of the season but also missed a penalty in Marseille Rennes 3-0 at Roazhon Park. The trainer Newcastle winger saw first-half spot-kick saved by goalkeeper Rennes goalkeeper Tomas Koubek regained goal by Valere Germain for the opening goal on 35 minutes.
AFP / DAMIEN MEYER
Olympique Marseille’s midfielder Florian Thauvin gestures during the French L1 football match against Rennes January 13, 2018
Thaypin’s ninth assist with Neymar, while Hiroki Sakai produced a brilliant goal-line block to deny Ismaila Sarr an equalizer, and minutes later Germain teed up Morgan Sanson to rifle in Marseille’s second just before half-time. Thauvin completed the scoring Luiz Gustavo’s Brazilian midfielder.
Marseille has a 3-1 defeat by Rennes at the Velodrome in September – one of just three losses for Rudi Garcia’s team this season – to move level on 41 points with third-place Lyon. Nice continued their resurgent form as Pierre Lees-Melou’s deflected strike earned them a 1-0 home win over Amiens, while a Gaetan Laborde header gave Bordeaux a 1-0 victory at Troyes to halt a run of six straight defeats in all competitions. Edinson Cavani is in line to return for Claudio Ranieri’s PSG at Nantes on Sunday after missing their last two matches following his stay, but Neymar has been sidelined by a rib injury. They will be joined by a second-from-bottom Angers, but they will be without joint-top scorer Mariano Diaz as he recovers from a hernia operation.