Sanches stars as third-place Lille beat Montpellier 2-1

AP – Renato Sanches gave home fans a sign of things to come with a fine winning goal, as Lille strengthened its grip on third place in the French league by beating Montpellier 2-1 on Friday.

Lille moved three points behind second-placed Marseille, which looks for a seventh straight win when it travels to Metz.

Sanches latched onto a superb flick from lively forward Jonathan Ikoné, accelerated down the left and cut outside a defender before thumping a low shot into the bottom corner in the 84th minute.

It was the kind of goal Lille hoped for when spending EUR20 million (USD22.2 million) during the offseason to sign the 22-year-old Portugal international from Bayern Munich, making him the northern French club’s record signing.

Victor Osimhen had a penalty well saved by Montpellier goalkeeper Géronimo Rulli moments after Sanches’ goal.

Osimhen’s run led to Lille’s opening goal from the penalty spot in the 40th, when Rulli rushed rashly off his line and clattered into the Nigeria striker. Ikoné sent Rulli the wrong way from the spot. But the France forward did not celebrate, having previously played for Montpellier on loan from Paris Saint-Germain (PSG).

It was the first penalty conceded by Montpellier this season, leaving defending champion PSG as the only side not to concede one. For Lille it was a league-leading sixth spot kick.

Two Montpellier players were involved in a freak first-half injury as Téji Savanier headed the ball straight into the face of his 18-year-old teammate Joris Chotard, causing blood to pour from his nose.

Lille’s Renato Sanches controls the ball against Montpellier. PHOTO: AP