Marseille draw at Auxerre to edge nearer title

PARIS - Leaders Olympique Marseille moved closer to their first Ligue 1 title since 1992 by drawing 0-0 at second-placed AJ Auxerre on Friday.

The result left Marseille on 72 points. Auxerre, unbeaten for 12 league matches, trail by five points with three games remaining.

Marseille, who went into the encounter on a seven-match winning streak, will be crowned champions if they beat Stade Rennes on Wednesday and Auxerre fail to win at Olympique Lyon.

"It is a good draw against a very good side. We came here to avoid defeat," Marseille defender Souleymane Diawara told the Orange Sport TV channel.

"We now have to pick up as many points as possible to become champions."

Marseille won the title in 1993, the year they also lifted the Champions League, but were stripped of the French crown following a match-fixing scandal.

Auxerre, who claimed their only domestic title in 1996, are well placed to qualify for the Champions League as they lead fourth-placed Montpellier, who host Lyon on Sunday, by seven points.


The top two qualify automatically while the third team goes through to a playoff.

Marseille keeper Steve Mandanda did not have a single save to make on Friday as his side dominated throughout.

Auxerre captain Benoit Pedretti picked up a yellow card for a bad tackle on Mathieu Valbuena and was lucky to escape a red after another lunge on Lucho Gonzalez.

Marseille had the clearest chance in the first half when Valbuena broke down the right in the 21st minute and Lucho's clumsy volley was easily blocked.

Tensions rose after the break when Brandao elbowed Pedretti but the referee did not show the Brazilian the red card he deserved.

Brandao went close after the hour when his header from a Lucho corner kick shaved the post.

Marseille coach Didier Deschamps replaced Mamadou Niang and Valbuena with Bakari Kone and Hatem Ben Arfa respectively but it was to little effect as Auxerre, who have the best defence in the league, held on.