Nicolas Pepe scores last-gasp equalizer, Lille moves to 2nd

PARIS (AP) — Nicolas Pepe underlined his growing importance in Lille's quest for a lucrative Champions League place with a last-gasp penalty in a 1-1 home draw with Reims in the French league on Sunday.

Pepe slotted home from the spot in the fifth minute of injury time to move second, two points ahead of Montpellier, which has a game in hand.

Striker Remi Oudin put midtable Reims ahead midway through the second half.

Lille is 13 points behind runaway leader Paris Saint-Germain, having played one game more than PSG.

Catching PSG seems highly unlikely so Lille's focus is holding off Montpellier, Lyon, Marseille and Saint-Etienne in what is shaping up as an intense scrap for second place, automatic qualification for the Champions League, and the cash bonanza that comes with it.

Lille coach Christophe Galtier will be hoping the club does not cash in by selling Pepe in January's transfer window.

The 23-year-old Pepe has 11 goals in 17 league games, which is the same as PSG star Neymar and only one less goal than Neymar's teammate Kylian Mbappe.

Also Sunday, Strasbourg was held 2-2 at home by struggling Caen — days after holding PSG to a draw

Strasbourg became only the second team to take points off PSG this season when the sides drew 1-1 on Wednesday.

So resolute in defense against free-scoring PSG, Strasbourg conceded a sloppy equalizer with 10 minutes left when a poor clearance allowed midfielder Saif-Eddine Khaoui time to pick his spot with a rasping drive from 20 meters (yards).

Strasbourg led 2-1 midway through the first half, with defender Pablo Martinez and South Africa forward Lebo Mothiba netting either side of Faycal Fajr's equalizer.

Strasbourg is eighth while Caen is in 18th place, the relegation playoff spot.

There were only four matches played this weekend.

On Saturday, Rennes beat Dijon 2-0 and last-placed Guingamp lost 2-1 at home to Amiens. Both games played were held in the Brittany region.

Friday's eagerly awaited French Riviera derby between Thierry Henry's Monaco and Patrick Vieira's Nice, as well as PSG's home game against Montpellier on Saturday, were among games called off because of anti-government protests in Paris and elsewhere following weeks of unrest in the aftermath of a fuel tax hike.


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