Marseille brush aside Bastia to boost European hopes
Paris: Marseille gave their Champions League aspirations a timely boost as they cruised to a 3-0 home win over Bastia in France`s Ligue 1 on Saturday.
Dimitri Payet struck twice in the first half before Andre-Pierre Gignac added his 11th of the campaign to guide Marseille to within two points of third place.
With Marseille out of both domestic cup competitions, the league represents the only avenue to European football next term for Jose Anigo`s side, who appear to be trending upwards after a third win in five.
Successive victories had seen Bastia looking to break into the top half of the table at the Stade Velodrome but the visitors fell behind on 13 minutes as Payet exchanged passes with Gignac before scuffing a shot that deceived goalkeeper Mickael Landreau.
There was little the league`s record appearance maker could do about Payet`s second though as the winger curled in a sumptuous long-range effort on 25 minutes to take his season`s tally to seven.
Landreau prevented Marseille from increasing their lead as he turned a Gignac effort round the post before the burly striker headed over from a Benjamin Mendy cross.
Wahbi Khazri came close to reducing the deficit two minutes after half-time when he fired against the outside of the post but Bastia`s day was to get worse shortly after as Landreau limped off with an ankle injury.
His replacement Jean-Louis Leca`s first task was to pick the ball out of the net as Gignac netted Marseille`s third on 55 minutes, slotting home the rebound after Giannelli Imbula`s venomous 25-yard strike cannoned back off the crossbar.
Florian Thauvin missed a glorious chance to add his name to the scoresheet just after the hour as he volleyed off the mark following another Mendy delivery but it mattered little as Marseille strolled to victory.
On Friday Saint-Etienne climbed above Lille into third on goal difference after a goalless draw at Toulouse.
However, Lille, who are without a win in their last five matches, could regain control of third place if they avoid defeat at second-from-bottom Sochaux later on Saturday.
Leaders Paris Saint-Germain travel to title rivals Monaco on Sunday in a top of the table clash at the Stade Louis II, while the Bordeaux-Lorient fixture has been called off after heavy rain left the pitch at the Stade Chaban-Delmas unplayable.