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By ESPN Staff

Ligue 1: Lyon break Lille jinx with crushing win

PARIS, Sept 23 (Reuters) - Champions Olympique Lyon extended their strong start to the Ligue 1 campaign by beating Lille for a change on Saturday, doing it in style with a crushing 4-1 win.

Lyon, chasing a sixth successive title, had lost their last four competitive matches against northerners Lille including their two league encounters last season.

Two goals from Brazilian forward Fred and one each from France midfielder Florent Malouda and Brazil midfielder Juninho kept Lyon top with 19 points from seven games.

'The victory is made even sweeter by the fact that Lille are a good side,' said Lyon coach Gerard Houllier.

'This confirms that we have improved,' added the former Liverpool manager, whose team visit Steaua Bucharest in the Champions League on Tuesday.

'We're playing better and showing more character.'

Lille, who face the daunting prospect of entertaining AC Milan in Champions League action on Tuesday, slide down to eighth place and are now nine points off the lead.

Second-placed Olympique Marseille dropped three points back before visiting troubled Nantes on Sunday.

Malouda opened the scoring for Lyon with a volley from 20 metres on six minutes.

Lille levelled in the 24th minute, Lyon's Brazilian defender Cris deflecting into his own net an effort from Ivory Coast forward Kader Keita.

The visitors collapsed after the break.

Juninho put Lyon back in front from inside the box on 52 minutes after collecting a fine back-heeled pass from Fred, who then scored twice himself to complete an impressive victory.

Surprise package Nancy held on to third place and are now seven points off the pace after a goalless draw at Paris St Germain.

Last season's runners-up Girondins Bordeaux climbed three places to sixth by fighting back from a goal down to beat Troyes 2-1.

Forward David Gigliotti opened the scoring for Troyes on 10 minutes but Bordeaux responded after the break through forward Jean-Claude Darcheville and Brazilian defender Geraldo Wendel.

Strugglers Nice recorded their first victory of the season by beating promoted Valenciennes 2-0 courtesy of a late goal by defender Cedric Varrault followed by a penalty in added time from striker David Bellion.

The team from the French Riviera leave the bottom spot to Nantes, who sacked coach Serge Le Dizet on Wednesday, replacing him with his assistant, Georges Eo.