Battle for Champions League places hots up

Laurent Blanc's PSG side maintained their five-point lead over Monaco at the top of Ligue 1 at the weekend but the competition for Champions League places behind the leaders is hotting up. Catch up on all the latest action here.

Battle for Champions League places hots up
Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates with teammate Ezequiel Lavezzi after scoring in PSG's win over Valenciennes on Friday. Photo: Patrick Kovaric/AFP

Lille's bid for Champions League qualification from Ligue 1 faltered again on Sunday as they only just scraped a 2-2 draw away to struggling Evian.

Rene Girard's side looked like genuine title challengers at the season's halfway stage, but have now taken just five points from six games in 2014 to lose touch on top two Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco and allow the sides behind them to close in.

They are also being chased hard by Saint-Etienne and Marseille who shared a 1-1 draw on Sunday evening, thanks to a 92nd minute equalizer for the home side.

Saint-Etienne remain one place and three points behind Lille. Marseille are in fifth place on 40 points, having gone ahead of Lyon on goal difference.

Lille fell behind at the Parc des Sports in Annecy when Kevin Berigaud headed home from Modou Sougou's cross a quarter of an hour in.

They soon drew level when 18-year-old Divock Origi cut in from the left wing and curled a shot from the edge of the box into the far corner of the net for his second goal in as many league games.

Evian were back in front just after the hour mark, as Lille's Pape Souare was penalised for handball inside the area and Cedric Mongongu stepped up to score from 12 yards.

However, Lille rescued a draw thanks to a Ryan Mendes cross from the right-hand side that dropped into the net at the back post deep in stoppage time.

The point does at least edge Evian three points clear of the relegation zone.

In Sunday's late game, Saint-Etienne and Marseille cancelled each other out in a draw as both sides chase a European spot next season.

Following a goalless first half, the deadlock was broken in the 64th minute by the unlikely figure of Nicolas N'Koulou.

The Cameroonian prodded the ball home from a free kick, needlessly given away by Saint-Etienne, some 35 yards out from their goal.

It was only N'Koulou's second goal in his career and the first time Saint-Etienne had conceded at home since November.

Andre-Pierre Gignac could have doubled Marseille's lead in the 83rd minute but was denied by a fine save.

And it proved to be costly. In injury time, former Marseille player Brandao's smart header levelled things up.

Earlier, Lyon boosted their own European hopes as they with a 3-1 win at home against bottom side Ajaccio.

Goals from Gueida Fofana, Jimmy Briand and Bafetimbi Gomis saw them move to within five points of Lille.

Lyon took the lead two minutes before the interval when Alexandre Lacazette found Fofana, who took a couple of touches to set himself up before curling a shot over Ochoa from 25 yards.

They then increased their lead midway through the second period as Henri Bedimo broke into the box and cut the ball back for Briand to head home.

Kenyan international Dennis Oliech got a goal back for Ajaccio but Lyon wrapped up the points when Gomis curled a delightful finish past Ochoa into the far corner of the net for his 10th of the campaign.

OL have won five of their six Ligue 1 games in 2014 and now look like genuine contenders for a top-three finish, while Ajaccio remain rooted to the foot of the table, nine points from safety.

"We have played 11 games in five weeks. That's a lot even if we still played with energy towards the end," said Garde, whose side have a gruelling week ahead with a trip to Ukraine to face Chornormorets Odessa in the Europa League on Thursday before travelling to take on Lille next weekend.

Elsewhere, PSG remain five points clear of Monaco at the top after both clubs won this weekend.

Ezequiel Lavezzi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were among the goals as PSG eased to a 3-0 win against Valenciennes on Friday.

Two goals from James Rodriguez  gave Monaco a 2-0 victory away at Bastia on Saturday.

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‘Not football’s job’ to combat homophobia: French football chief

The head of French football has pulled away from a hardline stance against homophobic chanting and banners in stadiums on Friday, saying that "too many matches" have been stopped due to anti-gay abuse.

'Not football's job' to combat homophobia: French football chief

Noel Le Graet, president of the French Football Federation (FFF), said that the FFF would not instruct referees to stop matches except in cases when a “whole stadium” was guilty of homophobic chanting.

“I think we're stopping too many matches! That makes certain government ministers happy, but it bothers me. Football can't be taken hostage by vulgarity,” said Le Graet in an interview with newspaper Ouest-France.

Several matches have been temporarily halted in France this season after the French football League (LFP) introduced over the summer plans to tackle fan homophobia during matches, including allowing referees to stop games.

“Matches have been stopped when they shouldn't have been,” Le Graet continued.

“We will stop them if there is consistent homophobic abuse from the whole ground, but if among 30,000 people there are 2,000 imbeciles I don't see why the other 28,000 should be punished.”

Le Graet referred to France's sports minister Roxana Maracineanu, who in April launched the appeal for matches to be stopped in the event of homophobic abuse, and equalities minister Marlene Schiappa.

Schiappa publicly praised referee Clement Turpin after he stopped Marseille's 2-1 win at Nice for over 10 minutes last month following sustained abusive chanting and banners from home fans, but Le Graet insisted that it wasn't football's job to combat homophobia.

Paris Saint-Germain's match at Metz two days later was also briefly halted for a banner unfurled by the hosts' supporters asking the French league (LFP) to allow them to aim homophobic chants at PSG.

“Did football invent homophobia? You can be a know-it-all when you have got much to say. But there are more important political issues,” he said.

“This crisis will resolve itself. We will work with club presidents, people who don't stick their oar in every morning, who don't want to just look good in front of the television cameras.”