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Marseille tops Brest, Saint-Etienne wins French League Cup

Photo: Jean-Paul Pelissier/Reuters

Marseille's Benoit Cheyrou (right) scored the winning goal against Brest right before halftime.

MARSEILLE, France -- Marseille kept its slim title hopes alive by defeating Brest 1-0 on Saturday to pull within six points of leader Paris Saint-Germain in the French league.

Marseille needed a victory to stay second in the standings after Lyon edged Montpellier 2-1 on Friday. The Mediterranean side has a two-point lead over third-place Lyon.

Benoit Cheyrou scored the winning goal on the stroke of halftime with a curling free kick that bounced off the near post and into the net.

"We have improved in our weak moments,'' Marseille coach Elie Baup said. "At the start of the season, we had less control in those weak moments. Now, we stay calm. We manage to keep the ball a bit better when we feel that we can't trouble our opponent.''

Alaixys Romao burst from midfield in a dull first half and got tripped by Brest midfielder Ousmane Coulibaly in the 44th minute. Cheyrou took the subsequent free kick to beat goalkeeper Alexis Thebaux from 25 yards.

Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda kept a sixth straight clean sheet by palming away a long-range effort from forward Charlison Benschop in the 50th and parrying a low drive from midfielder Kamel Chafni in the 75th.

Marseille defender Lucas Mendes headed in a free kick from Mathieu Valbuena in the 71st, but his goal was disallowed for offside.

Brest stretched its losing streak to six games to remain in the relegation zone.

"We must keep on fighting until the end of the season,'' Brest coach Corentin Martins said. "As long as we have a chance mathematically to escape relegation, we will hang tough.''

On Sunday, it's: Bastia vs. Lille; Nancy vs. Evian; Reims vs. Valenciennes; Sochaux vs. Bordeaux; Toulouse vs. Lorient ; and Paris Saint-Germain vs. Nice.

Rennes vs. Troyes and Saint-Etienne vs. Ajaccio have been postponed to Wednesday as Rennes will face Saint-Etienne in the League Cup final on Saturday.

Saint-Etienne ends title drought

SAINT-DENIS, France -- Saint-Etienne's 32-year title drought ended in the French League Cup final when Rennes was beaten 1-0 with a goal by Brandao on Saturday.

The Brazilian striker capitalized on a defensive mistake from Rennes goalkeeper Benoit Costil to volley home from close range in the 18th minute.

The last time Saint-Etienne won a trophy was in 1981 when it clinched the French league title.

"We're making history,'' Saint-Etienne coach Christophe Galtier said. "We are going to put on a shelf this beautiful trophy that this club has never won.''

Saint-Etienne dominated French football in the 1960s and 70s.

"We saw tonight the popular enthusiasm around this club. It's because of what the club achieved in the past. We had to rise to the occasion, and we did,'' Galtier said. "Winning this beautiful trophy is not an end in itself. I hope it's the beginning of a revival.''

Saint-Etienne was tipped as the favorite. It sits in fourth place in the French league and has lost only one game in all competitions in 2013.

On the other hand, Rennes poorly prepared for the final by losing its last four matches in the French league to slip to the middle of the table.

After a frantic start, cautiousness prevailed before forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang charged down the left wing to hoist the ball into the box. Costil missed his catch and the opportunistic Brandao flicked the ball into an empty net.

Turning around the match became an uphill struggle for Rennes, which missed through injury its best player, Romain Alessandrini, as well as defenders Kevin Theophile-Catherine and Herita Ilunga.

Rennes was hit by bad luck when striker Melvut Erding picked up a thigh injury and was replaced by the inexperienced Cheikh Diarra in the 25th. However, the Brittany side did not give up.

"When we have a full-strength team, we can compete against anybody,'' Rennes coach Frederic Antonetti said. "But when we miss two or three players, it's a bit more difficult. It's obvious that we didn't play the final in the best conditions.''

The result was a blow for Rennes which has not won any trophy since lifting the French Cup in 1971.

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