PARIS (AP) — Up-and-coming attacking midfielder Nabil Fekir scored the winner as Lyon beat Nantes 1-0 to restore its two-point lead over defending champion Paris Saint-Germain in the French league on Sunday.
Fekir, who has been in superb form this season, lifted Lyon to its first win in four games after the seven-time champions struggled in the absence of Alexandre Lacazette. The league's top scorer made a convincing return from a hamstring injury against Nantes after missing three games but it was Fekir who stole the spotlight in a match of few chances for both sides.
"It's a relief because it was a difficult match against a well-organized Nantes team that left only a few spaces," Lyon coach Hubert Fournier said. "It was important to win before three consecutive away matches against difficult teams. We'll now after that spell if we can still annoy Paris and stay on the podium."
Lyon travels to Lille next weekend before trips to Montpellier and Marseille, which missed the chance to level on points with PSG after being held to a 2-2 draw at fifth-placed Saint-Etienne. Marcelo Bielsa's side slipped to third in the standings, two points behind PSG.
Fekir first threatened with a long range free kick in the 40th minute that hit the bar before Lacazette came close of scoring his 22nd goal, firing his shot wide from the edge of the box.
Fekir had more luck when Nantes captain Olivier Veigneau helped the ball into his own net in the 67th minute while trying to stop him from rounding keeper Remy Riou at the end of a swift combination ignited by playmaker Yoann Gourcuff.
The 21-year-old Fekir won a penalty in added time when he was fouled in the area but Maxime Gonalons sent his effort from the spot wide.
In a match putting together the two teams with the most titles in French football, Max-Alain Gradel put Saint-Etienne in front from the penalty spot in the 50th minute. Substitute striker Michy Batshuayi leveled in the 64th minute from close range and added another one three minutes later when he beat 'keeper Lionel Ruffier from Romain Alessandrini's low cross with a neat finish.
But Marseille failed to hold onto its lead and conceded a third straight draw as Mevlut Erding headed home the equalizer in added time following a scramble in the area.
Elsewhere, goals from Morgan Sanson and Kevin Berigaud secured a 2-0 win for Montpellier at in-form Guingamp that lifted the southern club to seventh place in the standings, while Reims was held to a goalless draw by last-placed Metz.
Montpellier, the 2012 champion, ended the hosts' seven-match unbeaten run with an inspired attacking display and solid defending while Guingamp looked tired after playing Dynamo Kiev midweek in the Europa League.
Sanson put Montpellier ahead after two minutes with a 20-meter strike at the conclusion of a fine collective move.
Montpellier controlled the remainder of the half but Guingamp keeper Jonas Lossl made three decisive saves to keep the hosts in the match. Lossl was powerless in the 55th minute though, with Berigaud slotting home with a shot under the keeper after being set up by Anthony Mounier.
PSG beat Toulouse 3-1 on Saturday with two goals from Adrien Rabiot and a third from Thiago Silva for the defending champions, while Wissam Ben Yedder netted for relegation-threatened Toulouse.