PARIS: Florian Thauvin scored one goal and set up another as Ligue 1 leaders Marseille beat Nantes 2-0 at the Stade Velodrome on Friday evening.
Thauvin deftly converted a Dimitri Payet cross and then saw his free-kick headed home by Rod Fanni as Marseille opened up a two-goal lead before half-time and held on to claim a seventh consecutive home victory, their best run at the Velodrome since their 2009-10 title-winning campaign.
The result ensured that they will go into December on top of the table although reigning champions Paris Saint-Germain can trim their lead back to one point with a win at home to Nice on Saturday afternoon.
“Nantes are a good, well disciplined side. It was tougher than usual for us but we managed to keep our run going,” goalkeeper and captain Steve Mandanda told beIN Sports.
“Victories breed confidence. We believe in ourselves and it would be good to finish strongly before the winter break.
“We are aware that the road is long and there are very good teams out there, but we remain focused, humble and will work hard to win as many matches as possible between now and the end of the season.”
Nantes came into the game in fourth place thanks to a fine sequence of nine matches undefeated, their best run since they last won the title in 2001.
The Canaries were first to threaten when a Remi Gomis shot from 20 yards tested Mandanda in the home goal, but it was OM who opened the scoring 24 minutes in.
Payet, playing against his old club, did well to dig out a cross from the right flank and Thauvin got in front of Issa Cissokho to flick the ball into the net with the outside of his boot.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side have made a habit of starting games well this season and that was the 11th time they had found the net in the opening half-hour of matches.
Ligue 1’s leading scorers have also been grateful to Mandanda for some fine goalkeeping and to luck at times though and that was the case in the 36th minute when the French international saved from Georges-Kevin Nkoudou, with the Nantes winger then unable to net the follow-up as he lost his balance.
And three minutes after that Marseille doubled their lead, Fanni meeting Thauvin’s right-wing free-kick at the near post and heading the ball past Remy Riou for his first Ligue 1 goal in nearly two years.
Nantes won in Marseille 12 months ago, a result that led to OM coach Elie Baup being sacked, but they never really looked capable of getting back into this game in the second half, even if Mandanda was
called into action again to keep out a thumping Jordan Veretout shot.
Elsewhere this weekend, Monaco will look to build on their midweek Champions League win at Bayer Leverkusen when they go to in-form Rennes, while third-placed Lyon travel to face local rivals Saint-Etienne.--AFP