Lens beats northern rival Lille 2-1, Saint-Etienne also wins
PARIS (AP) — Lens won at defending champion Lille 2-1 to stay in remote contention for fourth place in the French league and automatic qualification for the Europa League on Saturday.
Lens is in seventh place and three points behind Monaco in fourth, and two points ahead of northern rival Lille in eighth. Lille lost for the first time in nine games since a 5-1 home defeat to Paris Saint-Germain.
There were no visiting supporters from Lens allowed following fan clashes at the corresponding fixture in September.
But the record 48,000 home crowd reportedly contained around 3,000 Lens fans dotted around the stadium, who managed to get tickets independently.
Lens started strongly and, after veteran defender Jose Fonte failed to clear a corner, Poland midfielder Przemyslaw Frankowski slotted into the bottom corner after four minutes.
Arnaud Kalimuendo, after being saved twice, finally beat Lille goalkeeper Leo Jardim in the 37th with a shot from near the penalty spot that deflected off Fonte.
Xeka headed a goal back for Lille close to the break, and there was some pushing and shoving between players and staff while walking off the field and in the tunnel.
There was also a brief flare-up at the end of the game, and riot police briefly intervened to calm a handful of agitated fans.
Midfielder Mahdi Camara scored twice as Saint-Etienne beat Brest 2-1 at home to move away from the relegation zone.
Saint-Etienne conceded 10 goals in its previous two defeats and Brest exploited early nerves to lead through Franck Honorat’s eighth-minute goal.
But Camara equalized in the 14th when he headed in from a corner and netted in peculiar style in the 39th with his stomach, after intercepting a botched clearance from Haris Belkebla.
Saint-Etienne is in 17th place with six rounds remaining and next faces 19th-placed Bordeaux.
In Sunday’s games, runaway league leader Paris Saint-Germain hosts bitter rival Marseille, which can move six points clear in second place and the automatic Champions League spot if it wins.
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