France: Lyon maintains lead after beating Saint-Etienne
Michel Bastos scored from a free kick as 10-man Lyon won 1-0 at bitter local rival Saint-Etienne on Sunday, maintaining its five-point lead over Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille at the top of the French league.
Lyon was the better side in a close match but was dealt a blow in the 55th minute when defender Mouhamadou Dabo was shown a straight red card for butting Saint-Etienne forward Max-Alain Gradel in the stomach in retaliation over a foul.
But 10 minutes later, Bastos hit a swerving free kick through Saint-Etienne's wall to wrong-foot goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier and seal an impressive win.
"It's always special to get three points here,'' said Lyon coach Remi Garde, who started his playing career as a center back with Lyon 25 years ago. "Hats off to all the players.''
Fourth-place Saint-Etienne had been in the spotlight all week as it received extensive media coverage, but it was the Brazilian Bastos - scoring with his first goal in more than two months - who ultimately made the difference for former seven-time champion Lyon.
"You shouldn't talk before games, there's no point,'' Bastos said. "You just have to show what you can do out on the pitch.''
Saint-Etienne has not beaten Lyon at home since 1994 and will rue the fact it squandered early possession.
Earlier, Marseille lost 3-0 at home to Lorient, its second straight reverse in the league after a 4-1 thrashing by Lyon two weeks ago.
Lyon center half Milan Bisevac put goalkeeper Remy Vercoutre under pressure with a back pass in the 12th, forcing Vercoutre to rush off his line to hack ball away as Saint-Etienne striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang closed in on goal.
Shortly after, Lyon midfielder Clement Grenier walked off in tears and clutching the back of his left leg after appearing to pull a hamstring and was replaced by Gueida Fofana.
Lyon carved out its first opportunity in the 33rd when winger Alexandre Lacazette played a quick one two with striker Bafetimbi Gomis and his perfectly-weighted pass fell into right back Anthony Reveillere's path as he charged into the penalty area. But Reveillere ignored the unmarked Gomis and chipped the ball just wide of the left post.
Aubameyang caused Lyon problems throughout with his searing pace and the visitors looked to have got a stranglehold on the match when Dabo was red-carded for butting Gradel in stomach, after Gradel had left his foot in on a challenge and raked his studs on Dabo's back.
"We played some good football up until the sending off, and then we managed to stay solid in defense,'' Lacazette said.
Fofana almost added a second goal for Lyon in the 78th but Ruffier stopped his deflected shot on the line.
Earlier, Marseille was again let down by its poor home form and missed the chance to pressure Lyon and PSG.
"It's time for us to stop having slip-ups,'' Marseillc coach Elie Baup said. "We have to be more efficient and more consistent.''
Third-place Marseille has the same points as PSG but is behind on goal difference. PSG thrashed struggling Evian 4-0 at home on Saturday, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic taking his league-leading tally to 14 goals in just 13 games.
PSG and Marseille are three points ahead of Saint-Etienne.
Lorient moved up to eighth place, thanks to a first-half penalty from striker Jeremie Aliadiere and goals from winger Benjamin Corgnet and forward Kevin Monnet-Paquet in the second half.
"The match turned in our favor with the penalty and sending off,'' Lorient coach Christian Gourcuff said. "It becomes easier when it's 10 against 11. We've experienced that the other way around in the past.
"We made the best use of the extra man and we were perfectly well organized,'' he added. "Aliadiere was exceptional, and he caused Marseille's defense a lot of problems.''
Marseille has lost five of its past seven games in all competitions and is leaking goals, with 17 conceded in the past nine games.
"Massively disappointed,'' Marseille midfielder Joey Barton said on his Twitter page. "Got to pick ourselves up quickly.''
Aliadiere put Lorient ahead in the 38th minute, taking the spot-kick himself after being fouled by Charles Kabore and sending goalkeeper Steve Mandanda the wrong way. Kabore, who had already been booked, was sent off.
Lorient went 2-0 up in the 47th when Alain Traore crossed from the left and winger Benjamin Corgnet beat left back Jeremy Morel to the ball, before expertly lobbing Mandanda with the outside of his foot for his third goal in four games.
Aliadiere set up the third goal in the 69th when he got on the end of a long ball and pulled it back to the unmarked Monnet-Paquet, who beat Mandanda with a powerful strike.
Earlier, Bordeaux missed a chance to break into the top five when it drew 0-0 at struggling Reims, which is 15th.