PARIS (AP) — Lyon heads into the winter break level on points with French leader Paris Saint-Germain after bouncing back from last weekend's defeat to the big spenders by beating Nice 3-0 at home on Saturday.
Lyon, which has spent almost nothing on players this season compared to the PSG's massive summer outlay of more than €160 million, withstood an early spell of pressure from Nice — coached by former Lyon boss Claude Puel — before scoring through strikers Lisandro Lopez and Bafetimbi Gomis and right back Anthony Reveillere.
Lyon took the lead in the 40th minute when Gomis set up Lopez. Reveillere, who hit the crossbar in the first half, made it 2-0 after a long run and shot past goalkeeper David Ospina. The keeper was then sent off in the 73rd for bringing down Gomis — who converted the spot kick to make it 3-0.
"We've finished the first half of the season well, but it wasn't easy for us as Nice played very well," Lyon center half Milan Bisevac said. Under former coach Antoine Kombouare, PSG led by three points from Montpellier heading into last season's winter break, only to lose the title by three points to Montpellier after Kombouare was replaced by Carlo Ancelotti.
Should Marseille beat Saint-Etienne at home on Sunday, then PSG — which won 3-0 at Brest on Friday — will be level on points with Lyon and Marseille. PSG, which has won its past four league games after a difficult spell, is ahead of Lyon thanks to a superior goal difference.
"It's great to be level with Paris," Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas said. "We've heard we're inferior (to PSG) and even that we suffer from an inferiority complex. This is good motivation to show what we can do."
Rennes is in fourth place after coming from behind to win 4-2 away to Ajaccio, while Lorient is a point behind Rennes in fifth spot after twice coming from a goal down to draw 2-2 at home with Reims. Romania forward Adrian Mutu gave Ajaccio an early lead before winger Julien Feret equalized from the penalty spot. Right back Fousseni Diawara restored Ajaccio's lead, only for midfielder Romain Alessandrini to level again just before the break. Midfielder Cheick Diarra and Feret's eighth league goal of the season sealed the win for Rennes.
Lorient, meanwhile, had won its past four matches but needed an injury-time equalizer from Portuguese defender Pedrinho to earn a draw. Puel was a hugely unpopular figure at Lyon during his three-year spell at the club from 2008-11, but in recent weeks he has turned Nice into a competitive force with five wins in the past six league games — thanks in large part to the scoring of Argentine striker Dario Cvitanich.
Cvitanich, who has 10 league goals so far, forced Lyon goalie Remi Vercoutre into a fine save in the 12th minute, and former Lyon midfielder Jeremy Pied went close for the visitors shortly after as Nice got on top early on.
Lopez settled the nerves with his sixth league goal of the season and Gomis sealed the win with his 11th of the campaign. "We had to dig deep and we enjoyed a bit of luck as well," Aulas said. Earlier, forward Nolan Roux scored twice as Lille beat Montpellier 4-1 to move up to seventh place.
Roux put the home side ahead with a deflected strike that looped over goalie Geoffrey Jourdren in the 24th minute and winger Dimitri Payet doubled the lead in the 43rd with a fine curling shot, moments before Montpellier had midfielder Younes Belhanda sent off for kicking midfielder Benoit Pedretti.
Roux grabbed his second of the game in the 62nd after being played through by midfielder Marvin Martin, and Ryan Mendes came off the bench to add a fourth goal after Roux's initial effort was saved. Sloppy defending by Lille allowed Montpellier forward Souleymane Camara to pull a goal back late on.
Montpellier's players were angry because Lille scored its second goal while defender Mathieu Deplange was lying on the ground with an apparent injury. Things got worse for the visitors when Belhanda was shown a straight red card for swiping at Pedretti's shin, although the former France midfielder appeared to exaggerate the impact of the challenge.
"The sending off was a bit harsh. There was a lot of acting," Montpellier coach Rene Girard said. "Maybe we should do that — it works." In Saturday's other games, Bastia beat Nancy 4-2 and Bordeaux drew 0-0 with Troyes.
Bastia took on Nancy some 850 kilometers (527 miles) away in Gueugnon after league officials ordered Bastia to play its home games far away from Corsica indefinitely due to persistent crowd problems this season.
The new surroundings seemed to suit Bastia, however, as striker Anthony Modeste scored two goals and veteran winger Jerome Rothen and midfielder Sambou Yatabare added one each to secure an impressive win.
"We're lucky enough to have supporters who traveled down to watch us and encouraged us," Rothen said. "Believe me, in a near-empty stadium we really heard them." In Sunday's other games, it is: Valenciennes vs. Evian and Toulouse vs. Sochaux.