PARIS: Florian Thauvin struck deep into injury-time to snatch Marseille a 1-1 draw with Nantes on Sunday that keeps them five points clear of Lyon in the race for the Champions League.
Rudi Garcia’s OM had a chance to move seven points clear in the third and final slot for next season’s Champions League, after fourth-placed Lyon’s 1-1 draw at Montpellier.
But the visitors struck in the 11th minute with a thunderbolt of a strike from right-back Leo Dubois as he drilled in Valentin Rongier’s lay-off from the edge of the area.
It looked as though Claudio Ranieri’s Nantes would hang on for an unlikely win, but Thauvin pounced in the fifth minute of added time.
Centre-back Nicolas Pallois inexplicably attempted to juggle the ball inside his own six-yard box, and although he may have been fouled by Luiz Gustavo, he presented Thauvin with the simplest of finishes to score his 16th league goal of the season.
Pallois was then sent off, given a second yellow card for dissent.
Marseille will count themselves lucky to at least avoid a third straight loss, after 3-0 defeats by arch-rivals Paris Saint-Germain in the league and Cup.
“When we come back in added time, we think it’s a point that can count, even if we were at home,” said Garcia.
“With a game every three days, we never know when the physical blow will come in. We equalised far too late, otherwise we could have played for the win.”
Lyon, despite a six-match winless streak in the league, remain only five points adrift of Marseille, while Nantes stayed in seventh place.
Bruno Genesio’s men have not won in the league since beating runaway leaders Paris Saint-Germain on January 21.
“As long as it’s mathematically possible, we’ll believe in it (top-three finish),” said coach Genesio.
“There was a positive energy shown by the team in a difficult context. I mostly remember the positive signals from my players.”
Montpellier’s point boosts their bid to take sixth from Nantes, as the second-best defence in the division repelled the efforts of Lyon to secure their 13th league draw of the campaign.
The hosts took a surprise seventh-minute lead at the Stade de la Mosson, as Isaac Mbenza snuck behind the Lyon backline unmarked to slot in Ruben Aguilar’s right-wing cross.
The visitors dominated after the interval as the front three of Bertrand Traore, Memphis Depay and Mariano Diaz proved a constant threat, and the latter pounced on a low ball into the area to grab a 58th-minute equaliser.
The 24-year-old forward has now scored 16 league goals in his first season since joining the French outfit from Real Madrid.
But Lyon failed to find a winner, settling for their third draw on the bounce after three consecutive defeats.
PSG have all but wrapped up the title after a 2-0 win at Troyes on Saturday maintained a 14-point advantage over reigning champions Monaco.
Earlier on Sunday, Caen took a big step towards safety as goals from Enzo Crivelli and Frederic Guilbert secured a 2-0 victory over Strasbourg.--AFP