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May 2, 2009

France: Marseille stretch lead after Toulouse draw

Marseille missed the chance to move further clear at the top of Ligue 1 tonight as they had to twice come from behind to take a point against European hopefuls Toulouse.

Hoping to build a cushion before Bordeaux take on Rennes tomorrow, Marseille were frustrated by an excellent display from visiting goalkeeper Cedric Carrasso.

But his starring role began only after Andre Pierre Gignac put Toulouse in front with the first of his two goals in the 48th minute.

Mamadou Niang levelled just after the hour mark, and both he and Gignac then scored again within a minute of each other in the final 20 minutes to ensure a draw.

In a first half of few chances, Etienne Didot volleyed wide for the visitors, before Mauro Cetto had to head clear from the line after Marseille's Mathieu Valbuena's left-footed shot had beaten Carrasso.

Didot then struck the crossbar with a free-kick five minutes before the break.

The second half was a far more frantic affair as Carrasso began by denying Hatem Ben Arfa twice.

Moments later Toulouse led as Gignac pounced on a loose ball to fire between the goalkeeper's legs.

That only fired up Marseille and Carrasso was at full stretch to deny Niang before somehow scrambling back to keep out Benoit Cheyrou's lobbed effort.

He was beaten in the 63rd minute when Cheyrou's cross fell perfectly for Niang who headed home.

Moments later, Carrasso was busy again denying Cheyrou and then Ben Arfa.

As Marseille poured forward, Toulouse hit them with a sucker punch as Daniel Braaten's pass released Gignac who finished well.

Marseille's response was immediate as Niang burst down the left before cutting in a finishing from a difficult angle, aided by a deflection.

At the end of a breathless match, Marseille boss Eric Gerets could only head onto the pitch to congratulate Carrasso, but with Bordeaux able to pull level by beating Sochaux tomorrow, he may yet rue the goalkeeper's star turn.

Marseille have 68 points with four games left, three ahead of second-placed Girondins Bordeaux who host struggling Sochaux on Sunday.

Olympique Lyon's hopes of an eighth successive title all but vanished when a double strike by Johan Audel led Valenciennes to a 2-0 home win over the champions.

Third-placed Lyon have 61 points while Toulouse are fifth on 58.

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