Arriving at Valenciennes FC’s brand new Stade du Hainaut with a three-point lead and boasting an eight-game unbeaten run, Montpellier hardly expected their momentum to be rudely halted by a side struggling to keep itself out of the relegation zone. However, despite lacking five first-team regulars, the hosts claimed only a second win in seven league encounters thanks to Foued Kadir’s strike just after half-time. “We lacked everything,” grumbled Montpellier coach René Girard. “But we’ve lost one match, a battle but not the war.” Given his team remain top of the table, Girard is right to remain philosophical, but Paris Saint-Germain’s 1-0 victory at FC Sochaux-Montbéliard means only goal difference – +18 to the capital club’s +13 – divides the pair for now. “I must have had similar periods to that at Strasbourg or Lorient, but it’s not the same thing in Paris,” said match winner Kévin Gameiro, who ended a 54th-minute goal drought with his 20th-minute strike, his ninth of the league campaign. “It’s true that it was a long time since I’d scored, but my work paid off and I have to continue like this.”

Eliminated from all European competition last week, LOSC Lille Métropole – who go to Paris next weekend – did not let their disappointment affect their domestic form, stretching their unbeaten run to a club record 15 league matches with a 2-0 defeat of plucky Dijon FCO. “We had to show that we’d turned the page, and we did that,” said coach Rudi Garcia, who saw Moussa Sow (16′) and Eden Hazard (58′) score as the champions moved to within two points of top spot.

Olympique Lyonnais had maintained their Champions League ambitions with a remarkable 7-1 win in Zagreb, and those efforts certainly told in their lacklustre 1-0 triumph at FC Lorient, courtesy of Alexandre Lacazette’s 54th-minute goal to leave OL fourth, only four points behind Montpellier. Stade Rennais FC’s 1-1 draw with Breton rivals Stade Brestois 29 kept them in fifth, but Toulouse FC, who face a derby at Montpellier next week, joined them on 29 points thanks to Turkish international Umut Bulut’s 89th-minute winner that gave the south-westerners a 2-1 victory at home to Evian TG FC.

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