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Montpellier held, while Valbuena rescues Marseille
Published : 17 Dec 2011 21:16:44
French league leaders Montpellier were prevented from pulling three points clear at the top of Ligue 1 after being held to a 1-1 draw by visiting Toulouse on Saturday.
Victory would have sent Rene Girard's side three points clear of second-placed Paris Saint-Germain and they took a seventh-minute lead when Geoffrey Dernis followed up John Utaka's shot to slam home.
The hosts could not hold out until half-time, however, as Cheikh M'Bengue drew Toulouse level with a fine goal five minutes before half-time.
The Senegalese left-back intercepted a loose ball and strode forwards before bending a sweet right-footed shot around Montpellier goalkeeper Geoffrey Jourdren from just outside the box for only his second Ligue 1 goal.
Etienne Capoue cleared off his own goal-line twice as Toulouse hung on, while the visitors finished the game with 10 men after Franck Tabanou saw red for two bookings late on.
Having lost 1-0 at Valenciennes last weekend, Montpellier are now only a slender point clear of PSG, while Toulouse remain in sixth place.
PSG can return to the summit with victory over defending champions Lille in the game of the weekend on Sunday, amid rumours that mooted PSG signing David Beckham will be in attendance at Parc des Princes.
At Stade Velodrome, Mathieu Valbuena rode to Marseille's rescue once again with a glorious equaliser and an injury-time assist in a 2-1 win over nine-man Lorient that kept Didier Deschamps's side in eighth place.
Lorient had Lamine Kone sent off for a last-man foul on Loic Remy in the 33rd minute but went ahead with 13 minutes to play when substitute Innocent Emeghara nutmegged Nicolas N'Koulou and rounded Steve Mandanda to score.
Having scored a memorable winning goal at Borussia Dortmund earlier this month, Valbuena repeated the trick, bending a fine strike in off the crossbar from 22 yards out with six minutes remaining.
A surreal finale saw Remy hit the bar and Alaixys Romao sent off after receiving a second booking for dissent, before Benoit Cheyou converted Valbuena's free-kick to claim a 95th-minute winner.
Elsewhere, Anthony Mounier scored twice as relegation-threatened Nice won 2-0 at home to Valenciennes to climb above their opponents into 18th place.
Nancy left the relegation zone, climbing to 15th on the back of a 2-1 win at Caen, while goals from Florent Sinama-Pongolle and Max Gradel gave Saint-Etienne a 2-1 success at Dijon that moved Les Verts up to fifth.
A first-half Bruno Grougi penalty brought Brest a 1-0 win over Auxerre, who had Kamel Chafni sent off following an altercation with an assistant referee.
In Saturday's late game, fourth-placed Lyon host Evian in search of a fifth consective victory in all competitions.