PARIS (AP) — Marseille moved closer to securing a Champions League spot by beating Reims 1-0 on Sunday to retain a six-point lead for second place in the French league with just four rounds left.
Brazil midfielder Gerson dribbled past Andreaw Gravillon to fire home a low strike in the 83rd minute after Marseille had struggled to break down a compact Reims side playing with five defenders.
Reims nearly scored in the 37th when Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda wandered outside the box but Luan Peres cleared Mitchell Van Bergen’s lobbed attempt off the line.
Mandanda kept a clean sheet by saving a close-range header from Marshall Munetsi in the 76th.
“We didn’t have a great game. We made quite a few technical errors,” Mandanda told Amazon Prime Video. “But we were solid (at the back) and we were clinical with the chance that we had.”
The top two French clubs enter the group stage of the Champions League while the third-place team goes to the third qualifying round of the lucrative European competition.
Marseille finished fifth last season, missing out on a Champions League spot.
Meanwhile, Rennes kept pace in the race for Champions League spots by thrashing Lorient 5-0 to take back third place.
Benjamin Bourigeaud opened the scoring in the 17th by firing a half-volley into the roof of the net.
Martin Terrier doubled the lead with a cool finish two minutes later to notch his 21st league goal, one behind top scorer Kylian Mbappe.
Rennes captain Hamari Traore made it 3-0 by heading home a cross from Bourigeaud in the 47th.
One of the most underrated players in the league, Bourigeaud is having a career season with nine goals and 12 assists.
The hosts were reduced to 10 men in the 58th when Nayef Aguerd was sent off for fouling Lorient forward Armand Lauriente, who was bearing down on goal.
Flavien Tait increased the lead with a swerving long-range strike in the 79th before Gaetan Laborde capitalized on a counterattack to seal the victory in stoppage time.
Rennes is level on points with Monaco while Lorient remained three points above the relegation zone.
Also Sunday, fifth-place Nice needed a goal from substitute Khephren Thuram in the fourth minute of stoppage time to edge lowly Troyes 1-0 and stay two points behind Rennes.
Strasbourg lost ground in the race for European spots by losing 1-0 at Lille to slip to sixth place, one point behind Nice. Lille right back Zeki Celik netted with an off-balance volley in the 87th.
Nantes rallied from a 2-0 deficit to beat relegation-threatened Bordeaux 5-3. Nigeria forward Moses Simon gave Nantes a 4-3 lead in the 76th before Osman Bukari put the result beyond doubt with a downward header in the 89th.
Bottom side Metz saw its winless streak stretch to 13 games by losing 1-0 to midtable Brest. Algeria winger Youcef Belaili scored the only goal by converting a cross in the 27th. Metz finished the game with only nine men as goalkeeper Alexandre Oukidja and defender Jemerson were sent off in the second half.
Clermont moved two points above the relegation zone by salvaging a 2-2 draw with Angers. Mohamed Bayo in the 71st and Luca Da Cunha in the 82nd scored for Clermont to erase a 2-0 deficit.
Runaway leader Paris Saint-Germain clinched a record-tying 10th league title by drawing with Lens 1-1 on Saturday. ___
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The Associated Press