Alexis Claude-Maurice (C) receives a hug from Lois Openda after completing the scoring as Lens won at Clermont
Paris (AFP) - Lois Openda scored a five-minute first-half hat-trick as Lens thrashed Clermont 4-0 in Ligue 1 on Sunday, while Folarin Balogun’s goal secured Reims victory at Monaco.
Lens’ improbable title challenge had fizzled out after only one win in their past seven games but they climbed back into third, three points clear of Monaco following their 1-0 defeat by Reims.
Openda, who had not scored since January 11, took advantage of the gifts from the home defence as he scored three left-footed goals.
He broke between two defenders before popping the ball between the legs of the goalkeeper Mory Diaw after 30 minutes.
Three minutes later the Belgian striker pounced when Clermont’s Maxime Gonalons gave the ball away on the edge of his penalty area.
Barely a minute after that, Openda benefited from another big mistake by central defender Mateusz Wieteska to add his third.
“There have always been strikers who don’t score for a while,” said Lens coach Franck Haise. “Lois is a striker who knows how to score, he has it in him. It’s good that it happened this afternoon.”
“After a dozen games without scoring, I’m not going to quibble about his inconsistency.”
In the second half Seko Fofana hit the post for Lens before substitute Alexis Claude-Maurice made it 4-0 from an Openda cross.
In Monaco, the hosts twice struck the post through Wissam Ben Yedder and Brazilian defender Vanderson before Balogun put Reims ahead.
The Arsenal loanee and England Under-21 international raced onto a pass from Alexis Flips and drilled a low shot past Monaco goalkeeper Alexander Nubel for his 16th league goal this term.
Only Kylian Mbappe and Jonathan David have scored more goals than Folarin Balogun this season in Ligue 1
Reims are unbeaten in Ligue 1 since Will Still took over as coach in October, winning for the fourth time in five games and making it 19 without defeat.
They move up to eighth and to within four points of the European places.
Toulouse won 2-0 at bottom side Angers and Lorient beat Troyes by the same scoreline.
Nantes grabbed a late equaliser through Egypt forward Mostafa Mohamed to draw 2-2 against Nice, while Montpellier defeated Ajaccio 1-0.
Marseille host Strasbourg in Sunday’s late game.
Paris Saint-Germain lead Marseille at the top by 11 points after Kylian Mbappe scored a last-minute winner to see off Brest 2-1 on Saturday.