Lyon show character with fight-back win
PARIS, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Olympique Lyon underlined their character by recovering from a goal down to beat Olympique Marseille 2-1 in the highlight of Wednesday's Ligue 1 action.
The champions, chasing a record fifth successive title, extended their lead to 14 points by winning a tense match marred by many fouls.
Marseille started well, opening the scoring through midfielder Sabri Lamouchi, who collected a headed pass from forward Mickael Pagis to strike from close range on 19 minutes.
Lyon's Portugal midfielder Tiago equalised from the edge of the box on 54 minutes before striker Sidney Govou gave the home side victory with a superb volley from just outside the area in the 83rd minute.
Marseille, who slide two spots down to ninth, were reduced to 10 men seconds later when Lamouchi was sent off for a second booking.
'We had to fight for it,' said Lyon coach Gerard Houllier. 'We didn't play our best football but we created more opportunities and scored a fantastic goal.'
The battle of the goalkeepers between Lyon's Gregory Coupet and Marseille's Fabien Barthez, fighting for France's number one shirt at the World Cup finals later this month in Germany, was too close to call. Both were faultless.
'It's a pity because we came close to a great result,' said Marseille forward Toifilou Maoulida.
'We hoped for a win and then for a draw but that second Lyon goal and Sabri's red card proved too much.
Girondins Bordeaux moved into second after a late goal by substitute Alejandro Alonso gave them a 1-0 home win over Auxerre.
Argentine midfielder Alonso struck from close range with three minutes left in a tactical game with few highlights.
Auxerre dropped a place to third, 15 points off the pace.
With Lyon marching ever onwards, interest is focusing on the battle for second place and direct qualification for the Champions League.
Fourth-placed Paris St Germain, one of several teams still hoping to finish runners-up, will climb to second if they can beat Toulouse on Thursday.
Monaco remained eighth but fell 18 points off the pace by managing only a 1-1 home draw with bottom-placed Racing Strasbourg.
A few hours before the match, Monaco had officially presented their new signing, Italy striker Christian Vieri, who joined from AC Milan but is not yet eligible to play.