PARIS: Kostas Mitroglou made an instant impact off the bench with the decisive goal in a 2-1 victory at Toulouse on Sunday, while Lyon defeated Caen 1-0 to halt a run of six matches without a win in Ligue 1.
Lucas Ocampos, the two-goal hero in Marseille’s 3-1 Europa League last 16, first leg win over Athletic Bilbao on Thursday, was again on target in Toulouse as he forced home a 10th-minute opener.
But Toulouse, who are just a point above the relegation play-off place, equalised through Firmin Mubele’s first goal for the club following his arrival on loan from Rennes in January.
Former Arsenal forward Yaya Sanogo rattled the crossbar for Toulouse on 33 minutes, with Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda and his teenage counterpart Alban Lafont producing a series of top saves at both ends.
But the introduction of Dimitri Payet, and then Mitroglou, swung the match in Marseille’s favour as the pair linked up brilliantly within seconds of the Greek striker’s entrance.
A clever dummy from Payet allowed the ball to run through to Mitroglou before a slick exchange between the two finished with the latter slamming in a volley via the underside of the crossbar.
Mitroglou nearly grabbed a second in stoppage time when his header bounced back off the post, his follow-up effort coming right after Lafont had tipped a thunderous drive from Bouna Sarr onto the bar.
“We came to win, we knew we had to claw back to within four points of second (Monaco) and to keep our cushion over third (Lyon) who both won,” Marseille coach Rudi Garcia said.
“Fortunately, Steve (Mandanda) kept us afloat and we got a result the hard way. The three players who came on really helped us.”
Former Chelsea forward Bertrand Traore swept home Lyon’s winner on 63 minutes against Caen, as Bruno Genesio’s team avenged last week’s French Cup quarter-final exit at the hands of the same opposition.
Lyon were without a league win since their 2-1 defeat of Paris Saint-Germain on January 21, and hit the post through Ferland Mendy early in the second half before the woodwork then denied Caen’s Enzo Crivelli.
Traore notched his seventh goal of the season when a Mendy cross ricocheted off two Caen players and into his path, allowing the Burkina Faso international to convert from near the penalty spot.
The result keeps Lyon within five points of third-placed Marseille in the race for a Champions League spot.
However, Lyon must do without captain and leading scorer Nabil Fekir for another three weeks as the France forward continues his recovery from a knee injury.
“Fekir still felt discomfort in his right knee when he returned to training (on Saturday),” Lyon said in a statement, with the 24-year-old sidelined since the 1-1 derby draw with Saint-Etienne on February 25.
He is expected to undergo keyhole surgery on Tuesday, on the same knee that forced Fekir to miss the majority of the 2015-16 season, but Lyon hope he will return at the end of this month.
“It’s a big blow for us and for him. He’s suffered a lot from injuries in the past,” said Genesio. “There’s another way to see things though, namely that he is going to come back in great shape after the international break.”
Nice strengthened their case for another European adventure next season by romping to a 5-2 win at Guingamp as Alassane Plea scored four goals in the absence of the injured Mario Balotelli.
Former Lyon midfielder Clement Grenier tucked away a ninth-minute penalty for Guingamp – his first goal since April 2016 – but Plea levelled and struck twice more before the hour mark.
An own goal on 83 minutes from on-loan Barcelona centre-back Marlon gave Guingamp a lifeline, but Bassem Srarfi promptly made it 4-2 before Plea netted his fourth of the game in stoppage time.--AFP