France: PSG tops Troyes to move provisionally 10 points clear
Paris Saint-Germain moved closer to ending its long title drought with a scrappy 1-0 win at Troyes on Saturday, leaving second-place Marseille provisionally 10 points behind ahead of its difficult trip to Lille on Sunday.
Midfielder Blaise Matuidi scored the only goal in the 65th minute as PSG overcame a scrappy performance to grind out another crucial win in its bid for a first championship since 1994, and only its third ever.
PSG had already missed several chances when Matuidi ran to the far post to turn in fullback Gregory van der Wiel's cross from the right for his second goal in three games.
"It's a very important victory,'' PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti said. "With six games remaining it's another step toward the title.''
Marseille needs to win to maintain its slender title hopes, although the players have been saying for several weeks that they are aiming for Champions League qualification, rather than eyeing the title.
The defeat leaves Troyes rooted to the bottom and seven points away from safety, with relegation looking inevitable.
"I'm disappointed for my players,'' Troyes coach Jean-Marc Furlan said. "I regret that we didn't score in the first half.''
PSG made several changes from the team which went out to Barcelona in the Champions League quarterfinals on Wednesday, losing on away goals after two draws.
Kevin Gameiro replaced the suspended Zlatan Ibrahimovic in attack and Matuidi, who was suspended against Barca, came in for Thiago Motta in central midfield.
Center half Thiago Silva was replaced by Mamadou Sakho.
Gameiro missed an early chance after going through on goal, while PSG goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu made a smart save to keep out an effort from Brazilian striker Marcos.
While PSG's home form has been good this season, it has struggled away from home against clubs fighting against relegation, having lost at both Reims and Sochaux.
"Teams fighting relegation are very dangerous,'' Sirigu said. "It was a tough start to the game, because we hadn't had much time to recover (from Wednesday) and we're all still tired. We made a few mistakes because we're still lacking a bit of experience.''
Winger Ezequiel Lavezzi had a shot saved by `keeper Yohann Thuram-Ulien and Matuidi fired wide as PSG started the second half strongly.
With Troyes pushing strongly for an equalizer, Ancelotti made changes, bringing on veteran David Beckham for 20-year-old Marco Verratti and replacing Gameiro with Motta.
"He wasn't happy but I wasn't happy with him, either,'' Ancelotti said, reflecting on Gameiro's substitution midway through the second half.
In other matches, it was: Ajaccio 1, Nancy 1; Bordeaux 4, Montpellier 2; Brest 0, Reims 2; Evian 4, Rennes 2, and Lorient 4, Bastia 1.
Two goals from forward Jeremie Aliadiere took his league tally to 14 and helped Lorient stay in eighth place, one point and one place above Bordeaux, which has found some form lately after drab performances.
Reims moved closer to mid-table safety, while Evian moved three points away from the relegation zone.
Also on Sunday, Lyon needs to beat Toulouse at home to reclaim third place from Saint-Etienne, and Nice hosts Sochaux.