Lille sitting pretty after Hazard sinks Toulouse

01 April 2012 10:46

Champions Lille closed to within four points of top spot in Ligue 1 by winning 2-1 at home to Toulouse on Sunday and saw their grip on third place further strengthened by Lyon's 1-1 draw at Rennes.

Eden Hazard broke the deadlock for Lille with a 12th-minute penalty and teed up Dimitri Payet for Lille's second goal before Serge Aurier pulled one back for Toulouse with half an hour to play.

Victory took Rudi Garcia's side four points behind leaders Montpellier -- who have a game in hand -- and second-placed Paris Saint-Germain, while Lille are six points above both Lyon and Toulouse in the scrap for the final Champions League place.

"We know things happen very quickly in football," said Hazard.

"A little while ago, they were saying we wouldn't make the top three, and now people will be talking about the title.

"We're away from home next weekend (at Brest) and we'll have to try and win it."

Lille had a strong early penalty appeal rejected after visiting captain Daniel Congre tripped Payet but when Congre went through the back of Hazard a few minutes later, referee Philippe Kalt pointed to the spot.

Hazard stroked the penalty into the bottom-right corner to claim his 14th league goal of the season, putting him second only to Montpellier's Olivier Giroud (18 goals) in the scoring charts.

The 21-year-old was enjoying himself in the Lille sunshine and he set up the hosts' second goal in the 31st minute, side-stepping onrushing goalkeeper Ali Ahamada and crossing for Payet to score from close range.

Aurier pulled a goal back for Toulouse when he converted Adrien Regattin's low cross from the right but the visitors could not find an equaliser and saw Pantxi Sirieix sent off in the 82nd minute for an ugly foul on Nolan Roux.

Lyon finished the weekend in fourth place -- above Toulouse on goal difference -- despite seeing their four-game winning streak come to a halt at Rennes in Sunday's late game.

Mevlut Erding broke the deadlock for the hosts in the fifth minute, while Jonathan Pitroipa hit the post moments later and Alexander Tettey missed an open goal early in the second half after Hugo Lloris saved from Erding.

Lyon were incensed when Jimmy Briand was denied a penalty following an apparent foul by Rennes goalkeeper Benoit Costil but Lisandro Lopez equalised in the 76th minute, tapping home after his effort came back off the post.

"Looking at the first half, it's a point won," said Lyon coach Remi Garde.

"There are eight games left. It's more of a good day for Lille but we've still picked up a point at a direct rival."

On Briand's unsuccessful penalty appeal, he added: "I can't talk too much because I've got a suspended ban, but there was a significant incident in the game."

Elsewhere on Sunday, Caen squandered a chance to leave the relegation zone as they drew 0-0 at home to Ajaccio.

Carlo Ancelotti succumbed to his first defeat as PSG coach on Saturday when his team fell 2-1 at Nancy to leave Montpellier top on goal difference.

Montpellier were unable to take immediate advantage, however, as their game at Marseille has been postponed until April 11 to allow OM extra time to prepare for Tuesday's trip to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Source: AFP

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