Batshuayi bags brace in Marseille romp
By A. Scott
Substitute Michy Batshuayi scored twice as a superb second-half performance saw Olympique de Marseille beat RC Lens 4-0 at the Stade de France on Sunday to stay right in contention in the title race.
RC Lens 0 - 4 Olympique de Marseille
Batshuayi replaced André-Pierre Gignac at half-time and within a minute of the restart he put OM in front. Marcelo Bielsa's side had been matched throughout the opening period by a battling Lens side but their class told in the end. Alaixys Romao and the outstanding André Ayew added further goals before Batshuayi - called up to the full Belgian squad for next week's Euro 2016 qualifiers - wrapped up the win at the death.
The victory, and the manner of it, were the perfect way for Marseille to go into the international break. They end the weekend in third place, four points clear of Monaco in fourth and also just two points behind leaders Paris Saint-Germain before the two great rivals meet at the Stade Vélodrome in Le Classique in two weeks' time.
Following last week's draw with Lyon in the Olympico, Marseille's only change for this encounter at the national stadium saw Baptiste Aloé start in central defence in place of the suspended Jérémy Morel. Further forward, Gignac was again preferred to Batshuayi and he came close to opening the scoring twice in the first three minutes. First he saw a long-range shot deflected just wide by Ahmed Kantari and then he sent a beautifully controlled side-foot volley narrowly past the far post after being picked out by a pinpoint Dimitri Payet cross.
After more than four months without an away win, Marseille were looking for a second consecutive victory on their travels and they came flying out of the blocks. However, Lens survived the early onslaught and began to pose problems at the other end. Yoann Touzghar really should have done better than head over after rising unmarked to meet a Pablo Chavarría cross from the right. The same player fared better six minutes before half-time when Wylan Cyprien held up a cross from the left, but Steve Mandanda showed why he has won 19 caps for France by turning the shot around the post.
Only a superb block by Kantari denied Brice Dja Djédjé after the Ivorian latched onto a Payet through ball in the 41st minute as the first half ended goalless. Lens were performing well, but they undid all their good work in a sloppy start to the second half.
After coming out to mop up a short back-pass, Rudy Riou was almost caught out by an Ayew lob. But his kick out that followed went straight to Florian Thauvin and led to the opening goal. Thauvin found Payet on the right and his low ball into the box was bundled into the net by Batshuayi.
The Belgian had another effort ruled out for offside before and then forced a good save out of Riou before OM doubled their advantage on 67 minutes. Payet won a free-kick in a central position 25 yards out and stepped up to crash his effort against the left post, with Romao following in to score a rare goal.
Five minutes after that, Batshuayi fed Benjamin Mendy, whose low ball from the left to the far post was turned in by Ayew. And Ayew turned provider in injury time, bulldozing his way into the box and forcing Riou into a save, with Batshuayi converting the rebound. It was a sixth goal in five games for Batshuayi, who has surely earned a start against PSG following this outstanding 45-minute cameo.