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Pastore scores 2 as PSG wins 3-1 at Nice to go top of French league; Cavani converts penalty

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PARIS — Paris Saint-Germain showed it can cope with injuries and without top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic as it won 3-1 at Nice on Saturday to pressure Lyon in the close-fought French title race.

Midfielder Javier Pastore scored twice, either side of captain Mathieu Bodmer's equalizer for Nice, and forward Edinson Cavani sealed the win with a penalty.

PSG was one point ahead of Lyon with six games remaining. Lyon can reclaim top spot if it beats bitter rival Saint-Etienne at home on Sunday, but will have played one more game than PSG.

PSG was missing captain Thiago Silva and midfielder Thiago Motta through injury, while Ibrahimovic started his three-match ban for insulting match officials following a defeat to Bordeaux.

"We are battling against mental and physical fatigue. The first half was very tricky for us because Nice played some good football," PSG coach Laurent Blanc said. "I told my players at halftime that we couldn't be satisfied with how we were playing, that we'd come to Nice to take the three points."

But Pastore soothed the nerves with goals in each half.

Blanc put left back Maxwell and key midfielder Blaise Matuidi on the bench with a view to Tuesday's Champions League return leg against Barcelona, where PSG faces a massive task against the Spanish league leader after losing the first leg 3-1 at home.

PSG went ahead in the 40th minute when winger Lucas was left unmarked and his cross found Pastore, who beat goalkeeper Simon Pouplin with a crisp finish.

PHOTO: Nice's Mohamed Benrahma, right, challenges for the ball with PSG's Lucas Digne during their French League One soccer match, Saturday, April 18, 2015, in Nice stadium, southeastern France. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)
Nice's Mohamed Benrahma, right, challenges for the ball with PSG's Lucas Digne during their French League One soccer match, Saturday, April 18, 2015, in Nice stadium, southeastern France. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)

But the lead was short-lived as Bodmer — playing against his former club — struck on the stroke of halftime.

Pastore restored the lead in the 63rd, jugging the ball inside the penalty area and putting away the rebound after Pouplin saved his first effort.

Cavani, who was wasteful on Wednesday against Barcelona, slammed home a spot kick six minutes later after he was fouled by defender Jordan Amavai.

"The second half was much better," Blanc said. "It's logical that we got better as the game went on."

PSG, which has already secured the League Cup this season, remains in competition for the domestic treble and is through to the French Cup final.

"We knew we had a full program because we wanted to give our all in every competition," Blanc said. "We could have done things another way but I think we were right."

In late games, it was: Bastia vs. Reims; Guingamp vs. Evian; Lorient vs. Toulouse; Metz vs. Lens, and Monaco vs. Rennes.

Lille faces Bordeaux, and Montpellier hosts Caen in Sunday's other games.

Fourth-place Marseille lost 1-0 at Nantes on Friday for a third straight defeat.

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PHOTO: PSG's Javier Pastore reacts after scoring the first goal against Nice in their French League One soccer match, Saturday, April 18, 2015, in Nice stadium, southeastern France. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)
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