Lyon draws against Saint-Etienne to keep hold on third place
PARIS (AP) -- Paris Saint-Germain closed in on the French league title with a 1-0 victory at Evian that featured the dismissal of PSG midfielders David Beckham and Marco Verratti plus two other players after the match ended Sunday following a mass confrontation.
Javier Pastore scored in the 50th minute to keep PSG nine points ahead of second-place Marseille with four rounds remaining. Evian is one place above the relegation zone.
"The three points take us closer to the title and that's the important thing to remember. We've been waiting for this title for a couple of years and we're getting closer and closer,'' PSG right back Christophe Jallet said. "We managed to step up the pace in the second half and we scored quickly.''
But the win will do little for PSG's image, with midfielder Blaise Matuidi running over to gloat in front of the Evian bench moments after the final whistle and goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu clashing with several Evian players.
"I'll probably never know what it's like to win a league title, but it certainly seems that Blaise Matuidi was very happy and demonstrated that before our bench,'' Evian coach Pascal Dupraz said. "I can't stand matches that finish in a bad way, that's not football. He's an international, there's no need to wind everyone up.''
Sirigu and Evian striker Saber Khlifa were sent off after the final whiste.
"At this moment of the season all the games are difficult,'' PSG coach Ancelotti said. "All the teams are playing for something important. It was quite a heated match, especially at the end.''
PSG hosts Valenciennes next Sunday and can seal the title with a win if Marseille fails to beat Bastia on Saturday. However, PSG will be without Beckham, Verratti, Sirigu and holding midfielder Thiago Motta, who is also suspended.
"The title is close and we're very solid at the moment,'' Ancelotti said. "We will have to prepare for Valenciennes seriously.''
Earlier, Lyon held onto third place after fighting back to earn a 1-1 draw at home to bitter local rival Saint-Etienne.
"The pressure is on practically all the teams fighting for the podium,'' Lyon coach Remi Garde said. "Marseille has pulled away a bit. But between Lyon, Saint-Etienne, Lille, Nice - it's the same. There's a lot of pressure for everyone.''
Evian recently beat PSG on penalty kicks in the French Cup quarterfinals, and avenging that loss got to some of PSG's players. Matuidi appeared to goad the Evian bench and Sirigu was embroiled in several tussles with Evian players.
Ancelotti remonstrated angrily with Verratti after his dismissal and he stood motionless on the sidelines as the chaos scenes played out, with some looking to join in the melee while others tried to drag them away.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the league's top scorer, went close halfway through a scrappy first half when he clipped a shot just wide after meeting a cross from the right. Ibrahimovic then picked out Ezequiel Lavezzi with a pass from the right, but he shot wide.
Pastore gave PSG the lead when he curled an exquisite first-time shot past goalkeeper Bertrand Laquait after being set up by Jallet.
Lavezzi then missed a great chance midway through the second half when he ran onto a fine pass from Pastore, rounded Laquait, but sent his shot against a defender.
Sirigu had little to do for most of the match but was suddenly called into action within the space of a few minutes, keeping out shots from Daniel Wass and striker Yannick Sagbo.
Ancelotti said on Saturday that he was undecided whether he will stay next season, and the behavior of some of his players may hardly encourage him to stay.
A win would have moved fourth-place Saint-Etienne above Lyon in the chase for a European place, and the visitors scored in the 29th minute when center back Kurt Zouma headed in Yohan Mollo's corner.
Yoann Gourcuff equalized in the 55th after swapping passes with fellow midfielder Clement Grenier and flicking the ball past goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier.
Saint-Etienne is two points behind Lyon and one ahead of Lille.
"When you come to Lyon for a derby, it's always good to take a point,'' Saint-Etienne coach Christophe Galtier said. "We're winning at home and we're not losing away. We will have to get a win (at home to) Bordeaux (next week) if we want to keep the pressure on the others.''
Also Sunday, sixth-place Nice beat Troyes 3-1.
Nice is level on points with fifth-place Lille, which has a better goal difference. Troyes is last.