PARIS — Lille showed it is a serious contender to win the French league by beating Nice 2-0 to stay one point ahead of Paris Saint-Germain on Saturday.
Defending champion PSG scraped past Lens 2-1 at home to pressure Lille, and Christophe Galtier's Lille side responded.
Veteran Turkey striker Burak Yilmaz opened the scoring in the 13th minute with a low strike from just outside the penalty area. After Nice defender Jordan Lotomba was sent off just after the break, Yilmaz's countryman, Mehmet Celik, struck in a crisp shot from 20 metres in the 56th.
There are three games left, with Lille next away to Lens and PSG visiting a vastly improved Rennes side which is also chasing a Europa League spot.
Nice has the least defeats in the league with three and has conceded the least goals (22), compared to eight losses and 27 goals allowed for PSG.
Earlier, Neymar opened the scoring following a defensive error in the 33rd minute and captain Marquinhos scored another powerful header — just as he had against Manchester City midweek — to make it 2-0 after an hour.
But Lens exposed poor PSG defending when it scored straight from the restart as striker Ignatius Ganogo slotted home following a fine team move.
“It was a very difficult game, Lens plays very good football. I really like their style of play and we suffered,” Pochettino said. “We had to work hard for this win.”
Lens stayed in fifth place and the Europa League spot but was level on points with Marseille. Rennes can move into fifth if it wins at struggling Bordeaux on Sunday.
PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino was without star striker Kylian Mbappe, who is nursing a calf injury, while central midfielders Leandro Paredes and Marco Verratti were rested for the return leg at City on Tuesday. PSG trails 2-1.
“I'm optimistic for Kylian,” Pochettino said. “I think he'll be ready to play.”
Sunday's big game has third-placed Monaco hosting fourth-placed Lyon.
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Jerome Pugmire, The Associated Press