Lyon edges Strasbourg to stay in race for Europe places

STRASBOURG, France -- — Lyon stayed in the race for European spots by rallying past Strasbourg 2-1 to pull within three points of fifth place in the French league on Friday.

Strasbourg opened the scoring in the 15th minute with a close-range effort from midfielder Morgan Sanson.

But Lyon defender Castello Lukeba equalized by converting a rebound in the 32nd. Maxence Caqueret gave the visitors the lead with a low strike in the 36th.

Lyon finished the game with 10 men as Lukeba received a second yellow card for a cynical foul on Jean-Ricner Bellegarde in stoppage time.

Lyon coach Laurent Blanc dismissed any talk of European ambitions and pleaded for time to develop his young squad.

“There's an environment at Lyon which is difficult, delicate and not very positive because the objectives have been stated and validated,” Blanc said. “Our squad has changed a lot. We made many changes, especially by including young players. You need time to learn.”

Strasbourg remained above the relegation zone on goal difference.

Lyon dominated ball possession in the opening minutes but Strasbourg proved more threatening in the final third with a lob from Bellegarde that sailed over the bar in the ninth minute and an angled shot from Habib Diarra that goalkeeper Anthony Lopes saved with his legs in the 14th.

Strasbourg capitalized on the passive Lyon defense to take the lead from a long throw-in. Habib Diallo headed the ball toward Bellegarde, who set up Sanson, on loan from Aston Villa.

Lyon raised its intensity to level with a point-blank shot from Lukeba after goalkeeper Matz Sels saved Corentin Tolisso’s header off a corner. Four minutes later, Brazilian wing back Henrique charged down the left wing to square the ball back for Caqueret, who guided a first-time strike into the bottom corner.

The hosts had the opportunity to salvage a point but were let down by poor finishing. Strasbourg wing back Frederic Guilbert met a cross from Eduard Sobol in the 61st only to miss the target with a diving header.

“We will stay up,” Strasbourg coach Frederic Antonetti said. “When we play like that, we don't look like a team that will be relegated.”

Lyon striker Alexandre Lacazette could have raised his league tally to 21 goals but he hit the post with a curling shot on the turn in the 64th.

League leader Paris Saint-Germain hosts Lorient on Sunday while second-placed Marseille plays Auxerre. ------ More AP soccer: and