French giants Olympique de Marseille beat 2012 Ligue 1 champions Montpellier Herault 2-0 on Friday night to remain in Champions League qualification contention.
Goals from Florian Thauvin and Saber Khelifa gave Marseille a third straight Ligue 1 victory that kept them in fourth place, just two points behind third-placed Monaco, although the Principality outfit have a game in hand.
It was a welcome boost for Elie Baup’s team, who were beaten 2-0 by Arsenal in the Champions League on Tuesday, ahead of their trip to second-placed Lille this coming Tuesday.
“It’s a historic match because it’s Marseille’s 1,000th victory in the league,” Baup said. “But most of all it was important to win the three points, that’s three wins in a row now.”
France under-20 star Thauvin was the catalyst for the victory, scoring for the fourth league match in a row.
“It’s a source of pride to be playing and making a difference,” Thauvin said. “I’m delighted to be contributing to the team. We had a difficult October with the defeats [five out of five in all competitions]. Now we’re just winning.”
“If we keep going like this we’ll climb back up the table,” he added.
The former LOSC Lille Metropole player pounced on a mistake by the Montpellier defense to beat goalkeeper Geoffrey Jourdren from close range after 36 minutes.
Despite a difficult start to life at Marseille, he was in fine form on Friday night and could even have opened the scoring earlier in the 22nd minute, only for Jourdren to come out and dive at his feet to snuff out the danger.
It was not easy for the former European champions, though, as Victor Montano came within inches of sliding home an equalizer at the back post with the goal at his mercy in the 57th minute. Benjamin Mendy also had to charge back to stop Souleymane Camara shooting when one on one with goalkeeper Steve Mandanda.
The killer second came in stoppage time as Khalifa secured Baup a victory in his 501st Ligue 1 match as a coach.
Montpellier coach Jean Fernandez said his team paid for a slow start.
“I’m frustrated with the first half because we didn’t play well,” he said. “We lacked the technical accuracy needed to put Marseille under pressure.”
“We played better in the second half and did everything we could to equalize. If I want to stay positive, I look at the second half,” he said.
Montpellier remain 16th in the table, just five points above the relegation zone.