Defending champion Lille snapped a two-game losing streak with a scrappy 1-0 win at Montpellier in the French league on Saturday to move back into the race for the European spots.
Lille struggled throughout against a spirited home side led by playmaker Teji Savanier, one of the league’s best players. Lille goalkeeper Leo Jardim kept his team afloat with four decisive saves in the first half.
Jardim replaced usual starter Ivo Grbic following his disastrous display in the 5-1 loss to PSG last weekend. He did not disappoint and was decisive again near the hour-mark to deny a Savanier effort.
Lille took the lead against the run of the play with 14 minutes left when Portuguese midfielder Xeka snatched the winner from the rebound after a thwarted effort from teammate Benjamin Andre.
There was an amusing moment in the match when Jonathan Bamba and Xeka did rock, paper, scissors to determine who would take a free kick. Bamba won and his free kick from about 25 meters went directly toward Montpellier goalkeeper Jonas Omlin.
Lille leapfrogged Montpellier to seventh place in the standings, three points behind fourth-placed Strasbourg.
LYON STOP NICE
Back from the African Cup of Nations, Cameroon striker Karl Toko Ekambi helped Lyon beat third-placed Nice 2-0.
Toko Ekambi’s second-half goal sealed Nice’s second consecutive league loss. Moussa Dembele gave Lyon the lead from the penalty spot in the seventh minute with his 40th career league goal.
New Lyon players Tanguy Ndombele and Romain Faivre were given starts and did not disappoint as they combined well to create Ekambi’s goal.
Following an inconsistent first half of the season, Lyon has shown progress in recent weeks and has won four of its past five matches to move to sixth place overall, five points behind Nice.