PARIS — Lyon missed the chance to move two points clear of Paris Saint-Germain at the top spot of the French league standings after an early sending off undermined the hosts in a 2-2 draw with Saint-Etienne on Sunday.
After a fast start to the game against its local and historic rival, Lyon failed to hold on to an early lead after defender Lindsay Rose received a straight red card in the 28th minute.
Lyon reclaimed top spot on goal difference but has played one game more than PSG.
"There was a sense of injustice at halftime and we refused to give up," said Lyon coach Hubert Fournier. "We could have won this game, it was very close, we can be proud."
Facing its bitter rival on its historic ground probably for the last time, — Lyon will move to a new stadium in 2016 — the seven-time champions got off to tremendous start and ran over Saint-Etienne's three-man central defense. They created their first chance after just a few seconds when Clinton Njie stormed through the defense to force goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier to an excellent save.
After Nabil Fekir tested Ruffier with a long-range shot, Njie found some space in the area and dribbled past Ruffier to shoot toward an open net but a last-minute return from Loic Perrin denied his effort in the 12th minute.
Lyon continued to push and another powerful shot from Fekir hit the crossbar before Njie managed to give the hosts the lead from Fekir's assist with a low shot from close range.
The celebrations did not last as referee Said Enjimmi awarded Saint-Etienne a penalty after Rose handled a shot from Landry Nguemo in the area, with the defender getting sent off.
Gradel converted from the spot to level in the 31st minute and Saint-Etienne built on the momentum as substitute Romain Hamouma made the most of Benjamin Corgnet's through ball to give the visitors the lead just before the interval.
Spurred on by its buoyant fans, Lyon did not give up and Christophe Jallet jumped higher than anyone else to level with a precise and powerful header at the near post from Fekir's free kick.
Lyon had two more chances to snatch the win but Njie fired just over and Perrin headed the ball against his own bar from a corner in the 71st minute.
Earlier, Forward Nolan Roux and midfielder Adama Traore each scored as Lille beat Bordeaux 2-0 to close the gap on its rival.
Roux put coach Rene Girard's side ahead in the 14th minute with his second goal in three games, and the 19-year-old Traore sealed the win in the last minute.
Lille remained eighth in the standings, four points behind sixth-place Bordeaux.
In a closely-fought battle for European places, Montpellier reclaimed seventh spot with a 1-0 win against Caen courtesy of captain Vitorino Hilton's early goal at the Stade de La Mosson.
If PSG beats Auxerre in the French Cup final, all teams ranked between fourth and sixth will qualify for next season's Europa League.
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