Cavani drags Paris Saint-Germain past Nancy, Nice down Dijon

Martyn WOOD
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Paris Saint-Germain's forward Edinson Cavani celebrates after scoring a goal during the French L1 football match against Nancy March 4, 2017

Edinson Cavani converted a late penalty as Paris Saint-Germain laboured to a 1-0 win over Nancy on Saturday, while Nice stayed firmly in the Ligue 1 title race after beating Dijon 1-0.

PSG endured a frustrating afternoon despite their domination at the Parc des Princes and survived a huge scare when Nancy substitute Alexis Busin's shot struck both posts on 75 minutes.

But the hosts won a contentious 80th-minute penalty after Serge Aurier was fouled by Nancy goalkeeper Sergey Chernik, leaving Cavani to score his league-leading 27th goal of the season as PSG moved back level on points with leaders Monaco.

"It's difficult to play against these teams that defend a lot and give you so little space," Cavani told Canal+, with PSG turning their focus to defending their 4-0 lead against Barcelona at the Camp Nou on Wednesday.

"The important thing is to win. We now have to recover well and prepare for Barca," he added.

Nancy boss Pablo Correa admitted the nature of the defeat was a bitter pill to swallow after holding out for so long against the reigning champions.

"We feel frustrated because it was decided by something dubious. We can discuss it but I think if that happens in the Paris 18-yard box, it isn't a penalty," he said.

French football legend Raymond Kopa, a three-time European Cup winner with Real Madrid in the 1950s, was honoured with a minute's applause before kick-off in the capital after passing away on Friday aged 85 following a long illness.

With one eye on the second leg of their Champions League last 16 tie in Spain, PSG coach Unai Emery handed a first league start to Portuguese forward Goncalo Guedes after his January arrival from Benfica.

- Trapp stretched -

Nancy arrived on a five-match winless run that had seen them fail to score a single goal, but the visitors were determined to make life difficult for PSG with Chernik keeping out Lucas after a bustling run from the Brazilian.

Faitout Maouassa nearly stunned the home side with a long-range strike that forced Kevin Trapp into an excellent flying save to his right, while Javier Pastore and Grzegorz Krychowiak went close for PSG before the break.

Cavani headed wide from point-blank range early in the second half, while Serge Aurier was repelled superbly by Chernik before Modou Diagne made a brave goal-line block to deny Guedes.

Nancy almost landed a sucker punch on the counter-attack following a PSG corner, as Busin composed himself well only to see his effort clip the inside of Trapp's right-hand post and roll across the face of goal before hitting the left upright and spinning away from goal.

Nancy were then left remonstrating furiously as Ivorian Aurier went to ground in the area under minimal contact from Chernik, with Cavani condemning Correa's men to a cruel defeat after nervelessly dispatching the spot-kick.

Wylan Cyprien netted his third goal in the past five matches -- all of which have come in a 1-0 wins -- as Nice climbed alongside both Monaco and PSG on 62 points.

Mario Balotelli returned from a one-match suspension, but it was midfielder Cyprien's calm finish on 69 minutes in Dijon that helped maintain Nice's unlikely title challenge.

Saint-Etienne failed to make up ground in their push for Europe after a 0-0 draw at Bastia where both sides ended the game with 10 men, while Wesley Said's last-gasp equaliser rescued a point for Rennes as they drew 1-1 at Metz.

Monaco can restore their three-point lead at the summit when they host Nantes on Sunday.