DECINES-CHARPIEU: Lyon's Ivorian forward Maxwel Cornet (center) vies with Nantes' French forward Marcud Coco (right) during the French L1 football match between Lyon (OL) and FC Nantes on December 23, 2020. - AFP

PARIS: Lyon cruised past Nantes 3-0 on Wednesday to take top spot in Ligue 1 heading into the winter break from Lille, despite Burak Yilmaz's late strike earning the previous leaders victory at Montpellier. Rudi Garcia's Lyon lead Lille on goal difference, by just one goal, with reigning champions Paris Saint-Germain one point further adrift after thrashing Strasbourg 4-0 at the Parc des Princes.

It is the first time Lyon have been top at Christmas since the 2008/09 season, when their run of seven straight titles was ultimately ended by Bordeaux. "This rewards a fairly exceptional 2020 even with the league cut short in the spring," said Garcia, whose side missed out on European qualification after last season's Ligue 1 campaign was ended early due to the coronavirus pandemic. "We also played a League Cup final, a French Cup semi-final and a Champions League semi-final. Now we need to come back healthy after the holidays.

"With this pandemic, the players had better be careful." Lyon usurped Lille at the summit after a ruthless first-half display against managerless Nantes. Karl Toko Ekambi put the hosts on their way in the fourth minute at Groupama Stadium and in-form Zimbabwe striker Tino Kadewere netted his seventh goal of the season seven minutes before the interval. There was still time for former AC Milan midfielder Lucas Paqueta to put the result beyond any doubt on the stroke of half-time with the goal that put Lyon above Lille.

In the capital, PSG coach Thomas Tuchel made five changes from the side which drew 0-0 with Lille at the weekend, with Kylian Mbappe fit to start after recovering from a muscle injury. PSG dominated the early stages, with Mbappe having a penalty appeal waved away, before teenage defender Timothee Pembele pounced in the 18th minute to score his first Ligue 1 goal after Angel Di Maria's shot was saved. The home side failed to turn their possession into a two-goal lead before half-time, though, as Rafinha had an effort well saved by Strasbourg goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima.

Mbappe wasted a golden chance to double the advantage just after the hour mark, but blazed over the crossbar. The World Cup winner did get his 14th goal of the campaign in the 80th minute, though, scoring from Di Maria's assist to finally secure the three points. Paris added two more late on, with Idrissa Gueye scoring in the 89th minute and Moise Kean, on as a substitute for Mbappe, netting in injury time. "We never lost our concentration and discipline and we had a very solid performance," said Tuchel.

Yilmaz keeps Lille in top two
Lille had looked set to drop to third before Yilmaz rescued two points. Timothy Weah, the son of former Ballon d'Or winner George Weah, gave Lille a first-half lead with his third goal in five games, but Montpellier levelled through Gaetan Laborde in the 57th minute. Jonathan Ikone's penalty put the visitors back in front, but Montpellier hit back again as Andy Delort struck 20 minutes from time.

Lille refused to be beaten, though, and Turkish international Yilmaz came off the bench to grab an 86th-minute winner. The 35-year-old striker has now scored seven league goals since signing from Besiktas in the close season and is proving crucial to Lille's challenge. Fifth-placed Marseille fell eight points off the pace, albeit with two games in hand, as their winless streak extended to three matches with a 2-1 defeat at Angers. Earlier, Rennes moved into fourth place by extending their winning streak to four matches, as Clement Grenier scored the only goal in a 1-0 success over Metz. - AFP