Benzema brace sends leaders Lyon three clear

PARIS - Karim Benzema rediscovered his scoring touch with two goals to help Olympique Lyon go three points clear at the top of Ligue 1 with a 3-1 victory at Le Mans on Saturday. Lyon have 59 points with eight games left, ahead of Girondins Bordeaux who needed a late Marouane Chamakh goal to secure a 1-0 home win over 10-man Nancy. Olympique Marseille, third on 55 points, visit St Etienne on Sunday. Lille are fourth on goal difference after a 2-0 triumph at Nantes. Toulouse are fifth on 53 points after being held to a goalless draw at second-bottom Caen. Lyon scored in the first half through defender Jean-Alain Boumsong and striker Benzema, who had not found the back of the net since February 21. Boumsong struck from close range, taking advantage of poor defending from a Juninho corner in the 16th minute. Lyon snuffed out three good chances for the home side, especially when Jean Makoun headed away a volley from Frederic Thomas with goalkeeper Hugo Lloris beaten. Benzema doubled Lyon's advantage with a low, right-foot shot that went in off the post in the 44th minute. NO DOUBTS "I never doubt myself but every striker has to go through a scoring drought in his career. Sometimes you're lucky, sometimes you're not," Benzema told the Foot Plus television channel. The second-half was marred by controversy. Referee Philippe Malige initially awarded a penalty to Le Mans in the 54th minute after Belgian forward Roland Lamah went down, even though Lloris did not appear to touch him, before changing the decision after consulting his linesman. Three minutes later Benzema made it 3-0 when he headed the ball into an empty net, with Le Mans claiming he was offside. Substitute Anthony Le Tallec got a late consolation goal for the home team, who had created numerous chances. Nancy played the last 33 minutes with 10 men at Bordeaux after midfielder Frederic Biancalani was sent off. Bordeaux finally broke the deadlock when Morocco striker Chamakh lobbed Damien Gregorini in the 88th minute. "I liked our fighting spirit," said coach Laurent Blanc. "That is the kind of game you have to win. "We were under an obligation to collect three points and we did it." The defeat left Nancy 15th on 30 points, one point above the drop zone and ahead of Nantes on goal difference. Monaco suffered a 1-0 home defeat by bottom club Le Havre, who are still eight points from safety. Valenciennes' former Rangers striker Jean Claude Darcheville scored twice in a 2-0 home victory over Auxerre while Lorient won 3-1 at Grenoble in another mid-table clash.