Marseille edge past Lens


Marseille re-established their four-point lead at the top of Ligue 1 with a 2-1 win at home to Lens on Sunday, but it was a little too close for comfort. Nicolas N'Koulou put the hosts in front after 10 minutes, but struggling Lens hit back through Baptiste Guillaume after 31 minutes. Florian Thauvin scored Marseille's second on the hour-mark, but any thoughts of seeing out the game comfortably were ended by a red card for Alaixys Romao with 13 minutes left. The 10 men held on, though, to move clear of second-placed Paris St Germain. Victory ensured Marseille suffered no hangover from their loss to third-placed Lyon last time out. Marcelo Bielsa's side started brightly and both Andre Ayew and Thauvin had efforts at goal inside the first 10 minutes before they opened the scoring. Thauvin was involved again and his corner was flicked into the path of N'Koulou, who crashed a diving header beyond Valentin Belon from close range. Ayew went close to adding a second, but Belon did superbly to turn his effort away for a corner and that proved to be a turning point in the first half. Seemingly inspired by their goalkeeper's efforts, Lens attacked and Pierrick Valdivia fired the wrong side of the post with the goal at his mercy after Wylan Cyprien had squared. And the visitors did make their pressure count just after the half-hour mark. Pablo Chavarria saw his shot blocked, but the ball fell to Guillaume who shifted the ball on to his right foot before firing beyond Steve Mandanda with the aid of a deflection off Rod Fanni. Marseille responded and Thauvin almost scored when his header from Ayew's corner beat Belon, but Cyprien cleared on his own goal line. Lens thought they had taken the lead minutes after the restart, but, after Chavarria finished confidently, the flag went up to cut short his celebrations. And, moments later Bielsa's team regained the lead in some style. Dmitri Payet's perfectly-weighted ball found Andre-Pierre Gignac in behind the Lens defence and his cutback was emphatically blasted beyond Belon by Thauvin from 12 yards. Again the visitors responded well and Marseille struggled to contain Antoine Kombouare's side on the counter-attack. Despite their attacking intent, though, Mandanda remained untested in the Marseille goal, while, at the other end, Gianelli Imbula saw his drive fly just wide of the goal with Belon beaten. The hosts were made to see out a nervy final 13 minutes when Romao saw red for his second booking. Lens almost grabbed a sensational equaliser five minutes into stoppage time when Yoann Touzghar burst through on goal, but Mandanda made a superb sprawling save to keep the three points in Marseille.