AC Ajaccio are now all but consigned to an instant Ligue 2 return, following a 0-0 draw against Toulouse at the Stade Francois Coty. The result marks the Bears’ fourth scoring blank in five matches, and a fifth in a row on home turf.
Olivier Pantaloni’s side required a monumental victory against new Coupe de France holders Toulouse if they were to keep any realistic hopes of avoiding an immediate return to Ligue 2 alive. After a fairly even start, the lowest scorers in the league this season saw Mohamed Youssouf fail to hit the target with a hopeful hit from the edge of the area, but Toulouse began to grow further into the game.
Scorer of a brace in Toulouse’s 5-1 cup final thumping of Nantes, Thijs Dallinga led the Violets’ belated charge and fired inches wide before Zakaria Aboukhlal blazed over the bar from close range.
Soon after, Toulouse claimed that Youssouf handled the ball inside the box, but referee Florent Batta waved away those appeals following a VAR review. Though frustrated, Toulouse continued to press, but were unable to break the deadlock before the break.
As anticipated, the visitors picked up where they left off and began the second half on top, with Fares Chaibi glancing a header wide moments after the restart. Ajaccio stood their ground valiantly, but continued offering very little going forward as the endgame loomed, while Toulouse continued threatening to snatch all three points.
Chaibi came even closer to an opener in the 72nd minute, when he forced Francois-Joseph Sollacaro into a fine save, and Ajaccio finally started to mount a response in reaction.
Catching the visitors off guard, Ivane Chegra almost gave the home side something to cheer about moments later, but the Algerian youth international’s promising chance inside the area was thwarted by Maxime Dupe.
Adding further to the hosts’ mounting woes, Ajaccio saw a late penalty awarded in their favour overturned by a VAR review, and the game fizzled to a goalless climax.
Ajaccio are now 11 points from safety with four games to play. They also have a vastly inferior goal difference to the sides above them, and only a stunning away win over leaders and reigning champions PSG next weekend will give them any chance of a reprieve.
Flashscore Man of the Match: Branco van den Boomen (Toulouse)
Clermont were looking to extend their fine victorious streak in Ligue 1 to six games against a relegation-threatened Auxerre side that needed to bounce back after a 2-1 loss against Marseille, a result which ended their four-game unbeaten run.
The visitors almost got off to the perfect start when Grejohn Kyei was allowed clean through, only to be denied by a superb Ionut Radu save. The hosts responded with a golden opportunity of their own, although that too was squandered as Gauthier Hein failed to convert a low cross from six yards out.
During the latter stages of the opening period, the hosts dominated proceedings, and after Jubal’s header was cleared off the line from a corner, they deservedly took the lead with half-time approaching through a gorgeous outside-of-the-boot strike from Souleymane Toure. That was the 20-year-old’s first goal of the season, and it could hardly have come at a better time.
However, all the home side’s good work was quickly undone in the second half as Clermont gained a real foothold in the game.
Still, it took a stroke of luck for the Les Lanciers to draw level, as a deflected shot fell kindly into the path of Neto Borges, allowing the Brazilian to put the ball on a plate for Saif-Eddine Khaoui to tap home.
Auxerre’s poor fortune continued, too, as Han-Noah Massengo saw his effort rebound inside the post and into the arms of a relieved Mory Diaw after the midfielder had poked the ball through the legs of the Clermont goalkeeper.
With three of their remaining five fixtures against sides currently in the top eight, Auxerre were eager to pick up three points here, and applied pressure to their opponents right up until the final whistle. Ultimately, though, they had to settle for a share of the spoils, leaving them 16th and just two points clear of Nantes in the final relegation spot.
Flashscore Man of the Match: Souleymane Toure (Auxerre)
Lorient moved into the top half of the Ligue 1 table with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Stade Brest at the Stade du Moustoir. Regis Le Bris’ men inflicted Brest’s first defeat since March to keep the Pirates embroiled in a battle for their top-flight survival.
Lorient headed into this contest full of confidence after a historic 3-1 victory over Paris Saint-Germain in the French capital last weekend, but struggled to assert themselves in an uneventful opening half-hour.
They were just one win away from registering their highest number of victories at this stage of a Ligue 1 season, and would eventually be the side to break the deadlock with the break approaching.
Mali international forward Ibrahima Kone netted for the third time in six appearances, rising highest to head home Montassar Talbi’s impressive delivery.
Falling behind was an ominous sign for the visitors, who had lost all of their previous six league matches on the road this term when they’d done so. Keen to put that miserable record to an end, they nearly found themselves level straight after conceding, only to be denied by the woodwork as Jeremy Le Douaron’s header cannoned back off the upright.
Brest were made to suffer for their miss within six minutes of the restart, as Kone doubled his and his side’s lead with a sweetly-struck strike finish into the corner following a delightful exchange of passes with Lyon loanee Romain Faivre.
Now two goals behind, the Pirates faced an uphill task to get back into the contest, but they were handed a route to reducing the arrears when Lorient striker Yoann Cathline brought down Jean-Kevin Duverne in the area.
Romain Del Castillo made no mistake from the penalty spot with a clinical strike that flew past Yvon Mvogo.
Despite having their lead halved, Lorient remained relatively untroubled by Brest in the final stages of the match and held on to register their first set of successive league victories since October, despite a stoppage-time red card for Jean-Victor Makengo for his second caution in seven minutes.
Brest remain just three points above the Ligue 1 trapdoor after suffering their first defeat in seven games.
Flashscore Man of the Match: Ibrahima Kone (Lorient)
The two sides went into the game in 17th and 16th place, separated only by goal difference, and both knew they could put three points between themselves and the drop zone with a victory.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the opening stages were tense as the two teams looked to stay tight and compact. In fact, little happened until the 25th minute, when the game suddenly burst into life.
First, Andrei Girotto registered the first shot on target of the clash, heading straight into Mathieu Sels’ hands from a corner, before Morgan Sanson immediately went straight down the other and forced Nantes goalkeeper Alban Lafont into an important save.
The hosts appeared to have survived that attack but, within seconds, referee Benoit Bastien was pointing to the spot when Jean-Ricner Bellegarde was brought down just inside the area by Jean-Charles Castelletto. Habib Diallo had scored three times in as many away games prior to kick-off, and from 12 yards, he netted once more.
Fabian Centonze wasted a good opportunity to equalise, blazing over the bar from a decent position, but only after Lafont had denied Diallo a second at the other end. The home outfit’s shot-stopper then needed to react well to thwart Alexander Djiku in first-half injury time, with Maxime Le Marchand’s rebound being cleared off the line.
Nantes manager Antoine Kombouare will have hoped his half-time words would inspire his charges to stage a comeback, but they appeared to have the opposite effect. Within less than two minutes of the restart, Strasbourg had doubled their advantage as Diallo turned provider for Habib Diarra, who buried past Lafont with aplomb.
The home side, who were on the end of an embarrassing 5-1 defeat to Toulouse last time out in the final of the Coupe de France, huffed and puffed, but other than by a Florent Mollet free-kick, Sels was never truly called into action.
The result means Nantes are now without a win in their previous 11 league matches and are two points adrift of safety. Strasbourg, meanwhile, are not clear of trouble just yet, but they do move up to 14th in the table and can attack the rest of the season with a little less pressure on their shoulders.
Flashscore Man of the Match: Habib Diallo (RC Strasbourg)