PARIS – Marseille kept pace with the top teams in the race for a Champions League spot by defeating Rennes 2-1 in the French league on Sunday.
Benoit Cheyrou scored the winning goal with a powerful strike from the edge of the box in the 77th minute as Marseille came back from an early deficit.
Rennes midfielder Tongo Hamed Doumbia opened the scoring with a 30-yard drive in the 15th, but Marseille equalized with an own goal from defender Onyekachi Apam just before halftime.
Marseille extended its winning streak to seven games in all competitions to climb to fifth place, while Rennes suffered its first loss at home this season.
“The first half was difficult but we had the mental toughness to come back,” Marseille midfielder Morgan Amalfitano said. “We made fewer mistakes in the second half and that’s what made the difference. We gave away nothing.”
Rennes’ pressure high up the pitch led to its first scoring chance and the goal. Marseille playmaker Lucho Gonzalez lost possession under pressure from Yacine Brahimi and Doumbia pounced on the ball to fire home a low drive.
Marseille fought back in the 23rd when Benoit Cheyrou played Gonzalez in but the Argentine playmaker poked wide.
Rennes goalkeeper Abdoulaye Diallo protected his team’s lead by tipping over the bar a header from Amalfitano in the 27th.
Jires Kembo-Ekoko nearly added a second goal for Rennes with a half-volley in the 29th but Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda made the save.
Instead, Loic Remy helped Marseille level in the 44th as Apam deflected the France forward’s cross into his own net.
“The equalizer hurt us because it was just before halftime,” Rennes midfielder Julien Feret said. “Then they were better than us in the second half. They played more aggressively.”
Both teams had chances to win the match in the second half.
Feret pulled the ball back in the 49th for Kembo-Ekoko whose effort was blocked by Marseille centerback Nicolas N’Koulou.
Remy then made a cross for Gonzalez, who failed to flick the ball home from three yards in the 50th.
Cheyrou finally broke forward in the 77th to find Mathieu Valbuena. The Marseille winger played the ball back to Cheyrou, whose powerful shot could only be palmed into his own net by Diallo.
Also Sunday, Bordeaux goalkeeper Cedric Carrasso fouled Evian’s Yannick Sagbo but saved the subsequent penalty from the forward in the 69th to salvage a 0-0 draw, while 10-man Ajaccio moved out of the relegation zone by defeating Valenciennes for its fourth straight victory in the league.
Ajaccio substitute Christian Kinkela scored the winner in stoppage time by curling a shot into the top corner.
Brazilian striker Eduardo connected with a cross from midfielder Paul Lasne to put Ajaccio ahead after five minutes before Valenciennes forward Vincent Aboubakar levelled with a low drive in the 47th.
The visitors were down to 10 men in the 73rd when Lasne was sent off for a second yellow card.
Paris Saint-Germain needed a scrappy 1-0 win over Brest to keep a three-point lead over Montpellier at the top of the league on Saturday.
Also Saturday, it was: Nice 0, Montpellier 1; Lille 3, Saint-Etienne 0; Lyon 3, Dijon 1; Toulouse 1, Caen 0; Lorient 1, Sochaux 1; and Auxerre 1, Nancy 3.