Football

Saint-Etienne wins to strengthen grip on 4th place

PARIS (AP) — Saint-Etienne beat Montpellier 2-0 in the French league on Sunday to strengthen its grip on fourth place and keep alive its slim hopes of securing a Champions League spot, while Marseille stayed on track for a Europa League place after beating rival Lyon 4-2 at home.

Striker Andre-Pierre Gignac scored twice in the second half to take his league tally to 16 for the season and move sixth-place Marseille two points behind Lyon in their battle for fifth place. Center half Souleymane Diawara and winger Florian Thauvin put Marseille 2-0 up before midfielder Arnold Mvuemba pulled one back for Lyon.

But Gignac's brace put Marseille in complete control before striker Bafetimbi Gomis grabbed a late consolation goal with a clinical turn and finish for his 14th league goal of the campaign. "We really enjoyed that tonight. We wanted to make up for last season when they beat us 4-1 here," Marseille winger Andre Ayew said. "We're two points behind Lyon now and we'll see what happens on the last day. Now we have a big game away to Bordeaux, and it's been 35 years since Marseille has not won there, so we're going to have to change that."

Diawara profited from bad defending to head home from a free kick and Thauvin headed in a cross to the back post to make it 2-0 in the 26th minute. Gignac took down a long ball, cut inside two defenders and beat goalkeeper Anthony Lopes at the second attempt to make it 3-1. He added another from close range in the 56th after Lopes had saved Thauvin's shot from just inside the penalty area.

Earlier, Romain Hamouma put Saint-Etienne ahead in the 48th minute and forward Mevlut Erding made sure of the win in the 57th. Saint-Etienne needs to win its last two matches to stand any chance of overtaking third-placed Lille, which is five points ahead.

Hamouma, however, thinks settling for fourth place and a Europa League spot is more realistic. "Finishing fourth is really close to our hearts and we'll do everything we can to stay there," Hamouma said. "We missed out last season and we don't want that to happen again."

Saint-Etienne is five points ahead of fifth-placed Lyon, which travels to sixth-placed Marseille later Sunday. Hamouma collected a pass with his back to goal, turned and hit a powerful shot into the top right corner from 25 yards (meters) for his ninth league goal of the season.

Erding pounced after Max-Alain Gradel's free kick hit the wall and looped up invitingly for the Turkey striker to also grab his ninth of the campaign. Also Sunday, it was: Lorient 1, Ajaccio 0; Reims 1, Evian 0; Sochaux 2, Nice 0; Toulouse 1, Nantes 1; and Valenciennes 0, Bordeaux 1.

Paris Saint-Germain can clinch the title on Wednesday if it beats Rennes at home or second-placed Monaco fails to beat Guingamp the same evening. They are playing Wednesday because Guingamp and Rennes contested the French Cup final on Saturday, with Guingamp beating its Brittany rival 2-0 to win the trophy for the second time.

Bordeaux scored through fullback Julien Faubert in the 74th to relegate Valenciennes. Reims stayed in eighth place thanks to a first-half goal from midfielder Prince Oniangue, while Evian's defeat leaves it just one point above the relegation zone.

Ninth-placed Lorient took the lead through forward Jeremie Aliadiere in the 18th minute and held on despite having defender Bruno Ecuele Manga sent off midway through the first half. While Valenciennes joins last-placed Ajaccio in the second division next season, Sochaux still has a chance of avoiding the drop, after beating Nice 2-0 with a goal from Ghana forward Jordan Ayew and an own goal from defender Nemanja Pejcinovic.

Forward Wissam Ben Yedder's 13th league goal of the season earned Toulouse a draw after defender Oswaldo Vizcarrondo had given Nantes an early lead.

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