PARIS (AP) — Dimitri Payet scored his second spectacular goal of the week to help second-placed Marseille beat Toulouse 1-0 in the French league on Saturday and extend its unbeaten run to 16 games overall.
Marseille had the added bonus of strengthening its grip on second spot by moving eight points ahead of third-place Rennes, which drew at home to Brest 0-0.
Rennes was only one point ahead of fourth-placed Lille, which hosts Marseille next weekend. The team finishing second qualifies automatically for the Champions League, while the team in third goes through the qualifying rounds.
Payet’s stellar form is guiding Marseille back to Europe, and improving his chances of a France recall.
Having scored a fine individual goal against Saint-Etienne in midweek, he received a pass from Bouna Sarr and whipped a super 25-meter curler over the goalkeeper and into the top corner in the 51st minute.
Marseille was also indebted to goalkeeper Steve Mandanda’s stunning second-half save to keep out Belgian striker Aaron Leya Iseka’s close-range volley.
Payet was one of France’s best players at the European Championship four years ago, as his goals helped them reach the final. He missed the 2018 World Cup due to an injury but is pushing for a recall ahead of the Euro 2020.
The win moved Marseille to nine points behind Paris Saint-Germain, which will be without the injured Neymar when it hosts Lyon on Sunday. Neymar hurt his ribs last weekend.
Toulouse remained rooted in last place but confounded its status by taking the game to Marseille, hitting the post in the first minute through Leya Iseka. Another goal was disallowed in the 28th for the ball being out of play.
Monaco scored two late goals to win away at struggling Amiens and move up to fifth place.
Wissam Ben Yedder netted his league-leading 16th goal with a typically clinical effort to equalize in the 85th minute, and strike partner Islam Slimani netted an injury-time winner from a Cesc Fabregas corner.