PARIS (AP) As its prolific attack came to life in the second half, Lille routed Nimes 5-0 in the French league on Sunday to strengthen its grip on second place and automatic qualification for next season’s Champions League.
After former France forward Loic Remy put Lille ahead in the 51st minute, forward Jonathan Bamba headed in the second goal and defender Zeki Celik made it 3-0 before top scorer Nicolas Pepe grabbed his 20th league goal of the season.
Only PSG striker Kylian Mbappe, with 30, has scored more than Pepe. Portuguese forward Rui Fonte scored in injury time with his first of the campaign.
Lille is six points ahead of third-place Lyon with four games remaining. The team finishing third goes into the Champions League qualifying rounds.
Later Sunday, fourth-place Saint-Etienne faced Toulouse and fifth-place Marseille hosted Nantes.
A hat trick came from a surprise source as defender Youcef Atal showed his scoring touch in Nice’s 3-0 home win against Guingamp.
The pacey and skillful right back got his second goal of the game midway through the second half, following a surging run from just inside the Guingamp half, and then slid in at the back post to complete his hat trick with a typical striker’s finish in the 73rd.
Nice climbed into seventh place and Reims dropped to eighth after drawing 1-1 at Angers.
Elsewhere, Stephanie Frappart became the first woman to referee a game in the French first division when she took charge of the 0-0 draw between Amiens and Strasbourg.
Caen beat Dijon 1-0 in their relegation battle, leapfrogging Dijon into 18th, the promotion-relegation playoff spot.
Mbappe was sent off for making a dangerous challenge during the French Cup final on Saturday. PSG threw away a 2-0 lead to lose on penalty kicks to Rennes .
Neymar appeared to aim a punch at a fan filming and goading PSG’s players as the players walked up to collect their losers’ medals.