Marseille extends lead at top of Ligue 1 in front of record crowd
PARIS — Striker Andre-Pierre Gignac scored his 10th league goal in as many games as league leader Marseille beat Toulouse 2-0 on Sunday to secure an eighth straight win and stay seven points ahead of bitter rival Paris Saint-Germain and Bordeaux.
After center half Nicolas Nkoulou put Marseille ahead in the 21st minute with an effort that appeared to come off the top of his shoulder, Gignac made it 11 in 11 for club and country when he finished off a fine one-touch passing move in the 36th.
Gignac, who struggled with weight problems when he joined Marseille four years ago, is thriving under new coach Marcelo Bielsa’s strict, disciplinarian approach.
”We worked ferociously hard for four days during the week and the efforts paid off,” said Gignac, who says he is five kilograms lighter than he was last season, when Marseille was regularly jeered by its home fans and finished in sixth place – a massive 29 points behind champion PSG.
”Everyone knows that last year we suffered and so we’re savoring things this season,” Gignac said. ”Everything’s in place for us to have a good season, we’re sticking together, the team’s playing well. But we musn’t get carried away.”
Bordeaux missed the chance to leapfrog PSG and move into outright second place when it drew 1-1 at home to lowly Caen.
Mali forward Cheick Diabate put Bordeaux ahead from the penalty spot midway through the first half, but striker Herve Bazile equalized in the 77th.
Marseille has 25 points after 10 rounds, with PSG leading Bordeaux on goal difference.
Meanwhile, midfielder Yoann Gourcuff scored twice as Lyon beat Montpellier 5-1 to make it six games unbeaten and climb up to fourth place, one point behind PSG and Bordeaux.
Midfielders Nabil Fekir and Steed Malbranque and striker Alexandre Lacazette also scored, while defender Siaka Tiene pulled a goal back for mid-table Montpellier.
The Argentine coach Bielsa has transformed Marseille, which equaled its record for successive wins in front of a club record 62,000 home fans at Stade Velodrome.
”Equaling this record makes me very proud,” Bielsa said. ”We were excellent in the first half and the second half was more even. I’m very happy with the job we did and most of the team played at a very high level.
The only tricky moment for Bielsa came when, as he went to sit down on a drinks cooler near the touchline, he inadvertently sat on a small cup of coffee that one of his assistants had placed there seconds earlier.
”I couldn’t even drink it, which is a pity,” Bielsa joked after the game.
Marseille, however, was indebted to goalkeeper Steve Mandanda early on, after he made a superb reflex save to tip forward Denis Braithwaite’s shot onto the crossbar.
Nkoulou settled the nerves when he turned in a free kick from Dimitri Payet who, like Gignac, returned to the France team last week for a match away at Armenia in which Gignac scored one and set up two in a 3-0 win.
After a flowing Marseille move, Gignac timed his run well to turn a cross from Benjamin Mendy past goalkeeper Zacharie Boucher.
”Marseille deserved to win,” Toulouse coach Alain Casanova said. ”Unfortunately we couldn’t take our chances.”
Marseille will try and set a new club record for consecutive wins when it travels to play Lyon next Sunday.
”Lyon is very good at home,” Gignac said. ”But I’m sure the coach will put a plan into place.”
PSG beat Lens 3-1 on Friday.