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Lyon's title chances take another blow with loss

FRENCH leader Marseille came from behind for the third straight match to draw 2-2 yesterday at home to Toulouse, which had taken the lead twice through Andre-Pierre Gignac.

Gignac's double took him to a league-best 21 goals for the season, and Marseille rallied on goals from striker Mamadou Niang and an own-goal from Toulouse defender Mauro Cetto to move three points ahead of Bordeaux, which hosts Sochaux today.

Marseille almost won the match through midfielder Benoit Cheyrou, who went close twice in the closing stages.

After 34 rounds and with only four matches remaining, Marseille has 68 points and is closing in on its first league title since 1992. However, coach Eric Gerets announced this week he was leaving at the end of the season, reportedly after falling out with club owner Robert Louis-Dreyfus earlier this season.

Earlier Saturday, defending champion Lyon's hopes of clinching an eighth straight title took a further blow when it lost 2-0 at Valenciennes, with striker Johan Audel scoring both goals in the first half against a poor defense.

Marseille had won its previous two matches - away to Lorient and away to Lille - after falling a goal behind, and were faced with another deficit when Gignac gave Toulouse the lead in the 48th minute.

The recently capped France international showed outstanding ability to cut inside defender Vitorino Hilton with one touch before placing a shot past goalkeeper Steve Mandanda with the next.

Marseille equalized when Hatem Ben Arfa fed Cheyrou and his pinpoint cross from the left was headed home by Niang in the 63rd.

But Toulouse went ahead again in the 73rd when Gignac finished coolly from Daniel Braaten's cross from the right, again giving his France teammate Mandanda no chance.

Roared on by its passionate home fans, Marseille leveled just one minute later when Brandao found space inside the penalty area and passed to Niang, whose cross clipped the foot of Cetto and wrongfooted goalkeeper Cedric Carrasso.

Earlier at Valenciennes, Audel opened the scoring in the 23rd minute when he collected the ball on the left and easily cut inside defender Jean-Alain Boumsong before beating goalkeeper Hugo Lloris with a neat finish.

Six minutes later, Valenciennes went further ahead when Audel latched onto a long pass from Gregory Pujol, easily beat defenders Francois Clerc and Cris for pace and slotted the ball past Lloris.

In yesterday's other results, it was: Caen 3, Le Mans 1; Grenoble 0, Nice 0; Lorient 3, Lille 1; Monaco 0, Auxerre 1; and Saint-Etienne 0, Nancy 0.

Lorient's win came on second-half goals from Michael Ciani, Rafik Siafi and Fabrice Abriel, after Yohan Cabaye had given Lille the lead in the 36th.

Caen's win moved it provisionally out of the relegation zone and into 16th place with 34 points, but Saint-Etienne's failure to beat Nancy dropped it down to 19th place with 33 points.

In today's other games, Paris Saint-Germain hosts Rennes, and Nantes faces last-place Le Havre.


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