Marseille keep tabs on PSG after Lens romp

Marseille thumped Lens 4-0 on Sunday to close the gap on Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain back to just two points.

Marseille keep tabs on PSG after Lens romp
Marseille's Ghanaian forward Andre Ayew celebrates with teammates. Photo: AFP
Michy Batshuayi came off the bench to break the deadlock before Lens collapsed late on, with the Belgian adding a second — taking his tally to six goals in his last four games — while Alaixys Romao and Andre Ayew also netted.
"The first half of the first half was positive but, after 20 minutes, we lost some ground. In the second half, the early goal eased things for us because it opened up bigger spaces to attack," said Marseille coach Marcelo Bielsa, whose side face PSG next.
"We were very efficient against Toulouse (their previous away match, a 6-1 win) and Lens and both results are harsh for our opponents. My team needs fewer chances to score and that's a good thing. Every game left is important, especially the next game against Paris."
Playing at home in the Stade de France national stadium in Paris, relegation candidates Lens had managed to keep Bielsa's men at bay for 45 minutes.
Such was there stubborn resistance that France international striker Andre-Pierre Gignac was even taken off at half time for in-form Batshuayi.
Yet within 37 seconds of coming on, the young Belgian tapped the ball in from two yards out, following a Dimitri Payet cross.
In a poor first half, midfielder Payet was a rare spark for Marseille.   
But it was Batshuayi who stole the limelight with his seventh goal of the season, the third time this season he scored after coming off the bench.    
The 21-year old could have doubled his tally on 56 minutes but his deft strike was correctly ruled out for offside.
In the 67th minute, Togo talisman Romao pounced on a deflected Payet free kick to add a second goal, leaving Lens with an uphill battle to grind out anything from the game.
Five minutes later, though, Ghana midfielder Ayew found himself on the end of a Benjamin Mendy cross to seal the three points for OM.
In injury time, Batshuayi bagged his second — notching a third brace in four games — with a clinical finish after a mazy Ayew run.
Marseille moved to within a point of second-placed Lyon and two off PSG, maintain Ligue 1's three-way battle of nerves with just eight games to go.
Lens, on the other hand, have their own worries at the other end of the table as they are firmly in the relegation zone, nine points behind 17th-placed Lorient in the last position of safety.
Earlier on Sunday, Monaco cruised past strugglers Reims 3-1 to reclaim fourth place in the table.
The Principality side leapfrogged Saint-Etienne, who were temporarily lifted to fourth earlier following a 2-0 win over Lille.
"My team forgot about the Champions League very quickly and managed 20 minutes of real quality. We scored twice in those first 20 minutes. Our opponents then responded," Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim said.
"We showed we could offer some attacking football. The players play together and that's very important.
"The team is improving: after a rough start of the season, everyone worked hard to get there. The victory is very important for us ahead of the international break."
PSG went top of Ligue 1 for the first time this season after title-rivals Lyon lost 2-1 at home to ten-man Nice on Saturday.
The Parisians beat Lorient 3-1 on Friday thanks to a hat-trick from giant Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

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‘Not football’s job’ to combat homophobia: French football chief

The head of French football has pulled away from a hardline stance against homophobic chanting and banners in stadiums on Friday, saying that "too many matches" have been stopped due to anti-gay abuse.

'Not football's job' to combat homophobia: French football chief

Noel Le Graet, president of the French Football Federation (FFF), said that the FFF would not instruct referees to stop matches except in cases when a “whole stadium” was guilty of homophobic chanting.

“I think we're stopping too many matches! That makes certain government ministers happy, but it bothers me. Football can't be taken hostage by vulgarity,” said Le Graet in an interview with newspaper Ouest-France.

Several matches have been temporarily halted in France this season after the French football League (LFP) introduced over the summer plans to tackle fan homophobia during matches, including allowing referees to stop games.

“Matches have been stopped when they shouldn't have been,” Le Graet continued.

“We will stop them if there is consistent homophobic abuse from the whole ground, but if among 30,000 people there are 2,000 imbeciles I don't see why the other 28,000 should be punished.”

Le Graet referred to France's sports minister Roxana Maracineanu, who in April launched the appeal for matches to be stopped in the event of homophobic abuse, and equalities minister Marlene Schiappa.

Schiappa publicly praised referee Clement Turpin after he stopped Marseille's 2-1 win at Nice for over 10 minutes last month following sustained abusive chanting and banners from home fans, but Le Graet insisted that it wasn't football's job to combat homophobia.

Paris Saint-Germain's match at Metz two days later was also briefly halted for a banner unfurled by the hosts' supporters asking the French league (LFP) to allow them to aim homophobic chants at PSG.

“Did football invent homophobia? You can be a know-it-all when you have got much to say. But there are more important political issues,” he said.

“This crisis will resolve itself. We will work with club presidents, people who don't stick their oar in every morning, who don't want to just look good in front of the television cameras.”