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Football: Frugal Marseille squeeze by Lorient

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Marseille strengthened their prospects of playing Champions League football next season while retaining an outside chance of pipping bitter rivals Paris Saint-Germain to the Ligue 1 crown with a 1-0 win away to Lorient on Saturday.

Mathieu Valbuena struck the decisive goal after 25 minutes at Stade du Moustoir as Marseille secured their 12th 1-0 victory of the campaign to extend their unbeaten run in the league to eight matches.

The win moved Elie Baup's side to within six points of leaders PSG, who are away to relegation-threatened Evian on Sunday, with four games remaining and gave them a five-point advantage over third-placed Lyon, who host Rhone derby foes Saint-Etienne, in the race for the final automatic Champions League qualification spot.

"We're on a superb run of eight matches having taken 18 points from 24 but other teams are also in good form, so the battle (for Champions League football) is a tough and difficult one," Baup told reporters afterwards.

"There are still 12 points to play for. We have to continue to fight until the end," added the OM boss.

Defeat for Lorient saw the Brittany club remain seventh, leaving success in the French Cup as their only realistic hope of playing in Europe next term.

The home side almost took the lead when Maxime Baca saw his attempt cleared off the line by Lucas Mendes after Steve Mandanda had only partially saved the full-back's low strike.

Marseille capitalised on that stroke of fortune, though, with Valbuena putting the visitors in front moments later as he drilled home from the edge of the area after Andre Ayew's initial strike was repelled by goalkeeper Fabien Audard.

Yann Jouffre had a potential equaliser correctly ruled out for offside at the other end before the break, while Mandanda produced a marvellous fingertip save to thwart Maxime Barthelme in the second half.

Barthelme did then find a way past Mandanda shortly afterwards, only for his effort to cannon back off the crossbar as Marseille held out to claim a seventh successive clean sheet.

Tempers then flared after the final whistle with Audard and Ayew both shown red cards after a scuffle broke out between the two sides.

mw/cw/bc

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130427/football-frugal-marseille-squeeze-lorient-0