PARIS - Title contenders Lyon and Marseille both dropped points in the French league on Sunday to fall further behind leader Paris Saint-Germain.
Lyon lost 3-1 to Lille to fall six points behind PSG, while nine-man Marseille salvaged a 1-1 draw with lowly Evian and now trails the leader by eight points.
"Paris is strong in this second half of the season," Lyon defender Mouhamadou Dabo said. "They concede very few goals. They also have players up front like Zlatan (Ibrahimovic) who score in every match. We are not obsessed with them. We must also look behind us because there are teams like Rennes which are coming back."
In the chase for a European spot, Rennes went level on points with fourth-place Saint-Etienne by defeating Toulouse 2-0.
PSG beat Bastia 3-1 on Friday to put pressure on its rivals, but Lyon still seemed to lack urgency at Stade Gerland in the first half, playing at a slow tempo that failed to trouble Lille.
Instead, Lille threatened in the 17th minute when Dimitri Payet outpaced the Lyon defence to be clean through on goal, but the forward's side-footed effort sailed wide.
Payet made amends by setting up the first goal in the 28th. Cameroon defender Aurelien Chedjou escaped marking with a run toward the near post and headed Payet's corner inside the far post.
On the stroke of halftime, Lille hit Lyon on a fast break to double the lead. Payet fed midfielder Florent Balmont, who buried a low drive into the bottom corner.
Lille made it 3-0 in the 50th with a penalty from Salomon Kalou, after Lyon centre back Milan Bisevac blocked a shot from Lucas Digne with his hand.
Argentine striker Lisandro Lopez pulled one back by converting a penalty in the 57th after Lille defender Franck Beria had tripped him. But Lille goalkeeper Steeve Elana preserved his team's lead by palming away a powerful shot from Lopez in the 32nd and a close-range effort from Bafetimbi Gomis in the 67th.
"We showed that we were not dead yet and that we shouldn't be buried too quickly," Lille coach Rudi Garcia said. "I think we deserved our victory. We were smart tactically. We showed solidarity and ambition."
Marseille enjoyed a great start to the season but it has been faltering since the winter break.
Andre-Pierre Gignac gave Marseille the lead in the 52nd, taking a pass from France midfielder Mathieu Valbuena and firing home a spectacular strike for his eighth goal this season.
However, Marseille ran into trouble when Kassim Abdallah was sent off four minutes later. The Marseille defender stopped a scoring chance by fouling Saber Khlifa, leading to a penalty that Evian striker Yannick Sagbo converted.
Marseille lost another player in the 74th when Jordan Ayew picked up a second yellow card, but managed to hold on for a point.
"We were well organized, but after the goal, we got sloppy in our game and then there was that penalty," Marseille coach Elie Baup said. "We're happy to take this point even though we could have taken three."
Rennes overcame a poor first half to climb to fifth place in the league.
"It was maybe our worst (first half) since the start of the season," Rennes coach Frederic Antonetti said. "It was a different Rennes side in the second half."
Toulouse dominated ball possession in the first half but lacked the finishing touch to find the net. Etienne Didot hit the post with a half-volley from the edge of the box in the 22nd.
Rennes came back with more commitment in the second half. Toulouse goalkeeper Ali Ahamada stopped a volley from Mevlut Erding in the 55th and was lucky to see a header from Romain Alessandrini crash against the post in the 77th.
Alessandrini has proved one of the biggest sensations in the league this season. He received his first France call-up but didn't play in Wednesday's 2-1 loss to Germany.
The Rennes midfielder opened the scoring by notching his 10th goal this season. He took advantage of a blunder from Ahamada to score into an empty net in the 79th, before Erding doubled the lead in the 84th. The Turkey forward met a low cross from Abdoulaye Sane and slammed it into the roof of the net.
In Saturday's matches, it was: Saint-Etienne 4, Montpellier 1; Ajaccio 1, Bordeaux 0; Nancy 1, Reims 2; Nice 1, Lorient 1; Troyes 0, Sochaux 0; Valenciennes 2, Brest 1.
© Copyright 2013