Winger Florian Thauvin continued his remarkable form as Marseille beat Bordeaux 1-0 in a scrappy French league match on Sunday to stay one point behind second-placed Monaco.
In the quest for a top-three finish and a Champions League place next season, Marseille gained valuable ground by moving six points ahead of fourth-placed Lyon _ which earlier drew 2-2 at Lille.
“We’re sticking close to Monaco and that’s the most important thing,” Thauvin said.
Marseille will be increasingly confident for next Sunday’s trip to runaway leader Paris Saint-Germain. The side’s new-found consistency owes much to Thauvin, who has emerged as the leader in attack from his habitual position wide on the right. He has scored spectacular goals by cutting inside on his left foot and unleashing curling shots from outside the penalty area.
This time it was a rare headed goal, as he showed great timing and athleticism to nod in midfielder Dimitri Payet’s corner from the left in the 35th minute.
“It’s not my specialty, especially from a corner,” Thauvin said. “But when you’re struggling to create chances, sometimes you have to find a way to score.”
Thauvin has 15 league goals _ equaling his career-best tally from last season with 12 games to go _ and a further 10 assists. He is staking a strong claim to be included in the France squad for the World Cup later this year.
Bordeaux coach Gus Poyet entered the game on a three-match winning run since taking charge. But Bordeaux rarely threatened and remains in eighth place.
To celebrate Chinese New Year, the names of Marseille’s players were written in Mandarin on the back of their shirts. Marseille recently launched an account on Chinese social media site Weibo.
PSG beat Strasbourg 5-2 on Saturday and is 12 points clear of defending champion Monaco, which won 4-0 against Dijon on Friday.
Exasperated Lyon coach Bruno Genesio slammed the slack attitude of his players after yet another sloppy performance in which the team led 2-0 before drawing 2-2 at Lille.
“We’re not humble enough for the highest level. I told my players what I think, to their faces. It will remain between us,” he said. “Football is a team sport played by players who don’t always play for the team.”
The draw dented Lyon’s hopes of finishing in the top three but the warning signs have been there.
Since beating PSG on Jan. 21, fourth-placed Lyon has conceded 10 goals in a dismal run of three defeats and a draw. In one of those losses _ at defending champion Monaco _ Lyon was also 2-0 up in the first half and lost 3-2 to 10 men.
With rested top scorer Nabil Fekir starting on the bench, Bertrand Traore scored twice before halftime.
Nicolas Pepe scored midway through the second half and 17th-placed Lille equalized in the 81st minute through Brazilian forward Luiz Araujo’s powerful low strike from 25 meters out, following a well-worked corner.
Mario Balotelli was kept largely quiet as inconsistent Nice drew 1-1 at home to fifth-placed Nantes.
Balotelli is Nice’s top scorer with 13 league goals, but the Italian striker was not at his sharpest against a team shrewdly coached by countryman Claudio Ranieri.
A rare goal from veteran Brazilian center half Dante gave Nice an early lead. Emiliano Sala replied for Nantes in the 27th minute.
Nantes stays one point ahead of sixth-placed Montpellier, while Nice is in ninth and has lost 11 games out of 26.