Olympique de Marseille strengthened their grip on fourth place with a 3-0 win over Stade Rennais FC on Saturday, with Valère Germain (35'), Morgan Sanson (45') and Florian Thauvin (82') getting the goals.
Stade Rennais FC 0-3 Olympique de Marseille
Thauvin was restored to Marseille's starting line-up having only entered the fray an hour into last Sunday's extra-time 1-0 win over Valenciennes FC in the Coupe de France, and his game-changing ability was on display inside the opening half hour at the Roazhon Park, with the winger earning a penalty from Mexer. He missed the resulting spot-kick, though, with Tomas Koubek saving well (27'). Rennes nearly punished the visitors' profligacy soon after, but Adrien Hounou's header from Hamari Traoré's cross was ruled out for offside (31'). Rennes lost Wahbi Khazri - scorer of three goals in his last three matches against Les Phocéens - to injury past the half hour (33'), and with the hosts' heads temporarily down, Marseille went ahead when Thauvin's blind pass found Germain, before the striker fired home from close range (35'). At the other end, Steve Mandanda and Hirokai Sakai had to combine to keep the hosts from equalising (42'), before Rudi Garcia's men pulled further clear with Sanson volleying home after good work on the right by Germain (45').
Marseille make sure
Rennes could have got back into the game a few minutes after the restart, but after finding himself in acres of space Jérémy Gélin sent the ball flying over Mandanda's crossbar (48'). With the game settling down after that, Garcia threw Clinton N'Jie on for Germain for the final 15 minutes, and his first act nearly resulted in the third goal, but he volleyed over at the back post when a sixth goal of the season should have been his (76'). It was left to Thauvin to add gloss to the scoreline, the former Newcastle United man getting on the end of Luiz Gustavo's square ball to make it three (82'). Thauvin was then inches away from another in the dying minutes, but after launching a stinging shot beyond Koubek he could only watch on as the ball bounced off the woodwork (90+1') and it ended 3-0.
THE PLAYER: Florian Thauvin
Thauvin could so easily have had a hat-trick in Brittany, but his goal and assist nonetheless mean that he has had a direct hand in 17 goals in just 20 Ligule 1 Conforama appearances this season. It is little wonder the 24-year-old has forced his way back into Didier Deschamps' France squad. On current form, he is a safe bet to make the final 23 on the plane to Russia.
THE STAT: 14
Marseille are now undefeated in 14 of their last 15 games in Ligue 1 Conforama. Before their 2-0 loss against fellow European aspirants Olympique Lyonnais in December, the south coast club had not tasted defeat since the reverse fixture, which Rennes won 3-1 in Week 5.