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Marseille's title bid hit by home loss

MARSEILLE'S quest for a first French title since 1992 took a major blow on Sunday after a 1-3 home defeat to Lyon handed the initiative to Bordeaux, which is now three points clear at the top with just two rounds remaining.

Marseille dominated for most of the match, but Lyon punished Marseille's slack defending to move 2-0 ahead at halftime with two goals from France striker Karim Benzema.

Marseille substitute Sylvain Wiltord pulled a goal back in the 81st, but Brazilian midfielder Juninho sealed the win with a swerving free-kick from 35 meters deep into injury time.

"It will be hard to catch Bordeaux now," Marseille striker Mamadou Niang said.

"But we will not give up. We played well tonight and created chances. But we ran out of luck and lacked efficiency."

After 36 rounds, Bordeaux has 74 points after beating Le Mans 3-2 on Saturday, while Marseille has 71 points and Lyon's win moves it onto 67 points and closer to securing third place and a spot in the Champions League qualifying round.

Paris Saint-Germain is fourth with 63 points.

Early exchanges

Juninho said Lyon "should have been leading 2-0" after being on top in the early exchanges, which saw Niang hit the post after 16 minutes and Lyon goalkeeper Hugo Lloris save well in quick succession from Mathieu Valbuena and Brandao.

"All the luck which we didn't have this season, we got back in one game," Juninho said after the game in which he scored his 99th goal for Lyon since joining in 2001.

Lyon took the lead against the run of play in the 29th minute when Benzema's clever reverse pass released Ederson and tempted Brandao into a clumsy challenge that resulted in a penalty.

Home fans threw objects on the field, but Benzema held his nerve to send goalkeeper Steve Mandanda the wrong way and snap a five-match barren streak that dated back to his two goals against Le Mans on April 4.

Marseille threatened in the 39th but Lorik Cana's shot was blocked by Kim Kallstrom, and when Lyon countered in the 42nd, Cesar Delgado found Jeremy Toulalan in space and his pass enabled Benzema to pick his spot and beat Mandanda for his 16th goal of the season.

After the break, Marseille had two claims for a penalty turned down and defender Taye Taiwo headed wide in the 62nd as Marseille pushed everyone forward in search of a goal.

It finally came when Wiltord turned in a pass from Niang, but Juninho broke Marseille's resistance with a free-kick in the 93rd that swerved low into Mandanda's right corner.

Meanwhile, at the bottom of the table, Nantes is deep in relegation trouble after conceding a late goal in a 1-1 home draw with Rennes that keeps it in 19th place.

Nantes took the lead in the first half through Mamadou Bagayoko and looked set for a precious win until Rennes striker Moussa Sow pounced in the 83rd minute.

That means Nantes is two points behind 18th-place Sochaux and three points behind 17th-place Saint-Etienne, which also has a better goal difference than Nantes.


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