PSG edge closer to title with win over Nantes

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, fresh from a three-match ban, helped Paris Saint Germain to a 2-0 win at Nantes in Ligue 1 on Sunday, moving them a step closer to their third consecutive French title. Here's a round-up of the Ligue 1 action.

PSG edge closer to title with win over Nantes
PSG's Blaise Matuidi celebrates with Zlatan Ibrahimovic during the team's 2-0 win at Nantes on Sunday. Photo: AFP

The giant Swede had a hand in both goals, notably playing the ball between Nantes' captain Oswaldo Vizcarrondo's legs to set up Blaise Matuidi's clincher on the half-hour.

Edinson Cavani had pounced as early as the third minute after the Swede had sparked a goalmouth scramble with a snap shot.

The 2-0 win puts PSG on 74 points at the top with Lyon three points behind with three games to play.

Having already won the League Cup, and with a French Cup final to come against Auxerre on May 30, Lauren Blanc's side are on track for a domestic clean sweep.

"We came for three points and that's what we're going home with. So congratulations to my players," said PSG coach Laurent Blanc.

"I don't know if we'll end up champions but over the last five or six games we've been tough to play against.

"It's all about concentration and determination to win the ball back. In matches where we were losing the ball, you saw players start to get at each-other," he explained.

Vizcarrondo was left red-faced when Ibrahimovic produced the cheeky pass through his legs before he turned in a panic to see Matuidi race through and clip a slick finish round the onrushing Remy Riou in the Nantes goal.

The Swede was playing his first game since starting a three match ban stemming from comments describing France as a "shit country" when he thought he was off camera after a defeat to Bordeaux.

Nantes worked hard all night with relentless support from a packed stadium but Paris dominated throughout. Cavani might have had a hatful but for a string of first-half saves from Riou.

While Serge Gakpe and Johan Audel both forced fingertip saves from Paris 'keeper Nicolas Douchez, who continued to impress in the absence of Salvatore Sirigu, their chances were few and far between.

Thanks to a hugely industrious Paris engine room led by Marco Verratti, Nantes were largely reduced to hopeful punts from the wing.

Nantes coach Michel Der Zakarian described Paris as almost unbeatable on this form.

"When they're up for it and concentrate like that and when they have everyone fit they're almost unbeatable," said Der Zakarian.

It was PSG's sixth straight league win and their remaining fixtures appear eminently winnable — they must visit Montpellier and welcome Guingamp and Reims to the Parc des Princes, where they are unbeaten domestically in a year.

Lyon for their part beat strugglers Evian 2-0 on Saturday to maintain their challenge for a first league title since 2008.

A superb free-kick from Clement Grenier and an Alexandre Lacazette penalty gave Lyon the three crucial points.

Earlier Sunday, Monaco's Portuguese duo Bernard Silva and Joao Moutinho set up a 4-1 hammering of Toulouse that took their team five points clear of their closest pursuers for Ligue 1's third and final Champions League spot.

Marseille had looked good for a Champions League place, having led Ligue 1 at Christmas.

But a classy Monaco run has seen a 15 point turnaround between the two clubs. Monaco are now on 65 points, with Marseille and Saint Etienne on 60.

Monaco had a great run in the Champions League this season only getting knocked-out 1-0 on aggregate in a close run affair with Juventus.

Third place in France offers a place in the third qualifying round for next season and all the aces now seem to be firmly in Monaco's hands.

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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.”