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Mar 4, 2006

Brazilian duo help Lyon to nine-point lead

PARIS, March 4 (Reuters) - Brazilians Juninho and Fred scored a goal apiece as champions Olympique Lyon won 3-1 at AC Ajaccio on Saturday to move nine points clear in Ligue 1.

Set piece artist Juninho fired a free kick from nearly 40 metres under the bar just after the hour before striker Fred doubled their advantage 18 minutes later from close range.

Ajaccio, who drop a place and now prop up the table, gave themselves some hope when Brazilian forward Lucas volleyed home from inside the area after 85 minutes.

However, teenage striker Karim Benzema sealed the victory for the visitors with an angled effort a minute from time.

Lyon, who had won just one of their previous five league games, bounced back from a 4-1 thrashing by Stade Rennes last weekend to revitalise their bid for a record fifth successive title.

The leaders have 62 points from 28 matches. Second-placed Girondins Bordeaux, whose game at Sochaux was postponed because of a snow-covered pitch, follow on 53 points also from 28 games.

Lille climbed to third, 12 points off the pace, courtesy of a spectacular 4-0 home win over Le Mans.

'I saw a good match between two good teams,' said Lyon coach Gerard Houllier. 'Ajaccio desperately need points and they made us fight for it,' the former Liverpool manager added.

MORALE BOOST

'We showed character but the difference in class between the two sides showed,' said Ajaccio coach Jose Pasqualetti. 'Lyon are not in the lead by accident.'

Lyon boosted their morale before entertaining PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday in the return leg of their last 16 Champions League tie. The French side won the first leg 1-0 in Eindhoven courtesy of a Juninho free kick.

The Ligue 1 spotlight now moves to Sunday's game between arch-rivals Paris St Germain and Olympique Marseille at Parc des Princes.

Marseille named a list of substitutes and reserves for the match and asked their supporters not to travel to the capital, saying they feared for the fans' safety.

The former European champions have accused PSG of refusing to sell them the promised number of tickets and of seating Marseille fans just underneath PSG supporters.

Matches between PSG and OM are always regarded as high risk. Security will be particularly tight after rival groups of PSG supporters fought each other and ransacked a motorway service station on their way back from a match last weekend.

'Those who love football are tired of the deplorable show those two teams offer every time they meet,' French Professional Football League (LFP) president Frederic Thiriez said on Saturday. 'That's enough'.

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