Payet scores for Marseille for 6th straight win

Marseille's French forward Dimitri Payet celebrates after defeating Saint-Etienne. (Claude Paris/AP)

PARIS — Midfielder Gianni Imbula and winger Dimitri Payet scored first-half goals Sunday as French league leader Marseille beat Saint-Etienne 2-1 at home to record a sixth straight win.

Imbula put Marseille ahead after just seven minutes with a low shot that skimmed inside the post, and Payet doubled the lead in the 28th after converting Ghana winger Andre Ayew’s cross from the left.

"We have to be honest. This is all down to the coach (Marcelo Bielsa)," Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda said. "He’s precise, everyone knows their role."

Saint-Etienne’s attack featured Turkey striker Mevlut Erding and 17-year-old Allan Saint-Maximin, and he set up defender Jonathan Brison’s goal in the 53rd to ensure a tight finish. But Marseille came closest to scoring again when top scorer Andre-Pierre Gignac saw his shot well saved by goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier in the 84th.

"We knew it would be a big game at home and we wanted to keep our winning run going," Marseille winger Andre Ayew said. "We played really well in the first half and then we eased up a bit and conceded the goal. But we showed we have a great team spirit."

Ayew praised the notoriously turbulent Marseille fans, who are fully behind the team this season.

"The stadium was boiling hot tonight," he said. "We’re all enjoying this and there’s nothing better."
After eight matches, Marseille has 19 points and is five ahead of bitter rival Paris Saint-Germain, which is in fourth place.

"Marseille is a candidate for the title," Saint-Etienne coach Christophe Galtier said.

Fourth-place PSG has 14 points and leads Metz and Saint-Etienne on goal difference.

Meanwhile, midfielder Thomas Toure created the opening goal and scored the winner with seconds remaining as second-place Bordeaux beat Rennes 2-1.

All the goals came in the second half, with Rennes striker Mahamadou Habibou cancelling out winger Wahbi Khazri’s opener for Bordeaux before Toure pounced in the third minute of injury time.

Rennes looked the more dangerous side before Khazri’s goal, with winger Paul-Georges Ntep causing problems with his pace and technique. He created chances for centre forward Ola Toivonen and Steven Moreira but they were unable to take them.

The win gives Bordeaux 17 points, putting it two points behind Marseille. Lille is third with 15 points and two-time defending champion Paris Saint-Germain is one point behind.

"The players never gave in, they finished the game exhausted and they still managed to go and get a winner in the closing stages," said Bordeaux coach Willy Sagnol, France’s right back when it reached the 2006 World Cup final. "The players deserve it. Everyone is giving everything they have."

Rennes midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure’s early shot went just over the crossbar and Bordeaux goalkeeper Cedric Carrasso made a smart double save to thwart Toivonen and Doucoure midway through an entertaining first half from the visitors.

Bordeaux scored against the run of play in the 73rd minute when Toure got past two defenders before crossing from a narrow angle to the back post, where Khazri was left unmarked to fire home.

The lead was short-lived as Habibou equalized seven minutes later, finishing after Carrasso had tipped away Doucoure’s shot from the edge of the penalty area.

Toure’s goal came in the third minute of injury time. A long ball was played into the penalty area and imposing Mali striker Cheick Diabate chested it down to Toure, who curled the ball expertly past goalie Benoit Costil.

Elsewhere, Lyon drew 1-1 at Nantes and Lens drew 0-0 at home to Caen.

Lyon took the lead in the 51st when centre half Bakary Kone beat goalkeeper Remy Riou with a glancing header from Alexandre Lacazette’s free kick.

But Kone then gave away a penalty in the 72nd, knocking over Chaker Alhadhur and Jordan Veretout converted.

PSG was held 1-1 at Toulouse on Saturday, drawing for the fifth time in eight league games ahead of its Champions League clash with Spanish league leader Barcelona on Tuesday.

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