PARIS - Eight times French champions Nantes eased their fears of an immediate return to the second division on Saturday with a 2-0 home win over Nice which took them out of the Ligue 1 relegation zone. Nantes, relegated in 2007 after a record 44 consecutive years in the top flight, won through a first-half goal by Cameroon striker Christian Bekamenga and a late effort from Mali forward Mamadou Bagayoko (pictured). Nice played most of the second half with 10 men, defender Gerald Cid receiving his marching orders for a second booking on 56 minutes. With six matches left, the club from the Atlantic port city climb two places to 16th in the 20-strong league. Toulouse and Lille did their chances of earning a Champions League spot no favours with away defeats by Grenoble and St Etienne respectively. Lowly Grenoble beat Toulouse 1-0 with a first-half penalty from midfielder Laurent Courtois. St Etienne, who won a record 10 French titles, tamed Lille 2-1 to move up to 18th. They scored after the break through Brazilian forward Ilan and France striker Bafetimbi Gomis before Lille reduced the arrears with a header by substitute forward Nicolas Fauvergue. Southwesterners Toulouse and northerners Lille stay fourth and fifth respectively, both five points off the lead, with the top three teams playing on Sunday. New leaders Olympique Marseille will visit Lorient and third-placed Girondins Bordeaux will welcome second-placed Olympique Lyon, who are chasing an eighth consecutive title.
18 April 2009
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