PARIS (AP) — Dimitri Payet scored early and Nemanja Radonjic struck late as Marseille won 2-0 at Saint-Etienne on Wednesday to strengthen its grip on second place in the French league.
Payet was one of France’s best players at the European Championship four years ago, and is now hoping to get back into the national side for Euro 2020 later this year.
He dedicated the win to Marseille’s travelling fans, who were not allowed inside the stadium to watch the match following incidents near the entrance before the game.
“The Marseille supporters buses were targeted by hooded individuals who violently attacked them. The buses sustained significant damages,” Marseille said in a statement, adding that there were further incidents in the car park. “Our fans were confined to the spot and had multiple objects thrown at them from the Saint-Etienne fans, and particularly violent reactions from the police forces who used tear gas, a water canon and evidently flash-balls.”
Payet has been in fine form recently, and fooled goalkeeper Stéphane Ruffier in the seventh minute. Collecting the ball on the left, Payet turned a defender one way and the other, then curled a shot inside the post with Ruffier having left a narrow gap as he moved off his line anticipating a cross.
After Saint-Etienne carelessly lost the ball in midfield, Payet and midfielder Morgan Sanson teed up Radonjic to smack the ball inside the right post from the left of the area.
Although Marseille is 12 points behind runaway league leader Paris Saint-Germain, it moved six points ahead of third-place Rennes — which lost at fourth-place Lille on Tuesday.
The team finishing second gets automatic qualification for the Champions League, while the team in third spot goes through the qualifying rounds.
Fifth-place Montpellier drew 1-1 at home against Metz despite taking the lead through midfielder Téji Savanier’s strike from 20 meters out. Farid Boulaya equalized in the 80th for Metz.
Montpellier is six points behind Rennes, while sixth-place Lyon is seven adrift after drawing 0-0 at home to struggling Amiens.
Nimes leapfrogged Amiens into 18th after beating Dijon 2-0 for its second straight win, with recent signing Nolan Roux getting the second goal.