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Late penalty helps Lyon edge second-place Brest

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Paris, April 15: Ainsley Maitland-Niles scored a penalty deep into stoppage time as Lyon rallied from trailing 3-1 to beat second-place Brest 4-3 in a dramatic French league game.
Alexandre Lacazette is Lyon’s regular penalty-taker but he had been stretchered off after being accidentally hit on the head by goalkeeper Marco Bizot, with the penalty awarded after VAR. Lacazette lay on the ground for several minutes before being stretchered off.
“We are awaiting further tests. We are hopeful of reassuring results,” Lyon coach Pierre Sage said about Lacazette. “Once again he proved decisive in the match, and when we needed to lift our heads up at 3-1 down he’s the one who set the tone with his pressing and his tracking back in defence.”
With 16 minutes of stoppage time on the clock, Maitland-Niles stepped up and sent Bizot the wrong way to give Lyon a win, and also open the door wider for Paris Saint-Germain to clinch a record-extending 12th league title.
Maitland-Niles was Lacazette’s teammate for five seasons when they played for Premier League Arsenal. After netting his first league goal for Lyon, he was treated to a song from the other players in the locker room after the game.
Brest is 10 points behind PSG and only one point ahead of Monaco in third place. Brest has five games left and PSG, which did not play this weekend, has six. Lyon climbed up to seventh spot.
“I can understand why they are second,” Sage said, praising Brest’s excellent teamwork. “I would like to congratulate them because they are good for football.”
Brest looked set for a victory after scoring three times in eight minutes through striker Steve Mounié and a brace from Romain Del Castillo, but Lyon hit back in the 70th minute through Lacazette’s 15th goal of the season and left back Nicolás Tagliafico nine minutes later.
Tagliafico was sent off in the 86th along with Brest midfielder Pierre Lees-Melou after an altercation between them. It led to pushing and shoving between players from both sides and Lyon defender Jake O’Brien – a former national junior champion boxer in Ireland – was shown a yellow card.
Former France midfielder Corentin Tolisso gave Lyon the lead with a powerful strike in the 18th minute. It was harsh on Brest, which had a blatant-looking penalty turned down moments earlier when O’Brien blocked Bradley Locko’s header with his hand.
Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes then made brilliant saves from Kamory Doumbia’s scissor kick and Martin Satriano’s long strike, tipping both onto the crossbar.
Earlier, Kader Bamba came off the bench to score an injury-time winner as Nantes won 1-0 at Le Havre to secure a vital win in its fight to avoid relegation.
Bamba cut inside from the left wing and hit a low shot from the edge of the penalty area in the third minute of stoppage time.
Storied club Nantes has won the league title eight times but narrowly avoided relegation last year and in 2021.
Coach Antoine Kombouaré has saved the club before and was re-hired to do so again, despite very public differences of opinion between him and club president Waldemar Kita.
Kita said he was willing to put those aside because he respects Kombouaré’s ability to motivate players and hold a dressing room together.
It seems to be working.
Kombouaré has won two of three league games since returning and Nantes is now up to 14th place in the 18-team league, with five matches remaining.
The bottom two go down and the 16th-place side enters a relegation-promotion playoff. Le Havre was promoted last season and is in 15th place.
Also, rock-bottom Clermont drew 1-1 with Montpellier.
Austria midfielder Muhammed Cham put Clermont ahead from the penalty spot in first-half stoppage time, but Tanguy Coulibaly equalized in the 56th minute for 13th-place Montpeller, which moved closer to safety.
PSG is preparing to face Barcelona in the second leg of their Champions League quarterfinal on Tuesday. (AP)

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