Marseille win keeps pressure on Lens; Aboukhlal misses Toulouse game in rainbow jersey protest
PARIS (AP) — Dimitri Payet made the most of a rare start this season to score as Marseille beat relegated Angers 3-1, keeping pressure on Lens in the race for second place and an automatic Champions League spot.
The 36-year-old Payet met Alexis Sanchez's cross to the back post in the 48th minute with a neat finish into the roof of the net.
The popular former France playmaker, who's not a regular in Marseille coach Igor Tudor's side but was once the team's standout player, got an ovation from fans at Stade Velodrome when substituted midway through the second half.
“It's been a difficult season for him, but he's always been right behind us,” midfielder Jordan Veretout said.
Third-place Marseille remained two points behind Lens with three games left. The third-place side goes into the Champions League qualifying rounds, and Marseille's almost there with an eight-point lead over fourth-place Monaco.
Sanchez equalized in the 34th after Abdallah Sima gave last-place Angers a surprise lead five minutes earlier.
Veretout added a late penalty for 3-1.
Earlier, Alexandre Lacazette failed to convert an injury-time penalty as Lyon lost 2-1 at Clermont to fall behind in its bid for a European place next season.
Lacazette's penalty deep into stoppage time last weekend helped Lyon beat Montpellier 5-4 at home, and capped a remarkable four-goal performance.
Lacazette put Lyon ahead in the 22nd minute against Clermont after being set up by Swedish forward Amin Sarr for his 25th league goal of the season.
But the lead lasted only three minutes as Grejohn Kyei equalized from the penalty spot. He then gave Clermont the lead midway through the second half before Lyon was awarded a penalty four minutes into stoppage time following a video review.
After a couple of minutes, Lacazette stepped up but his low effort lacked power and was saved by goalkeeper Mory Diaw. The miss kept Lacazette one goal behind Paris Saint-Germain striker Kylian Mbappé at the top of the scoring charts. Lyon is in seventh place, with fifth place earning a Europa Conference League slot.
Teams wore rainbow-colored numbers on their jerseys this weekend to lend support to the fight against homophobia.
But Toulouse forward Zakaria Aboukhlal was left out of the squad for its 0-0 home draw against Nantes after refusing to wear the jersey.
Aboukhlal posted on Twitter to defend his decision.
“First and foremost I want to emphasize that I hold the highest regard for every individual, regardless of their personal preferences, gender, religion or background,” Aboukhlal wrote.
“Respect is a value that I hold in great esteem. It extends to others, but it also encompasses my respect for my own personal beliefs. Hence, I don’t believe I am the most suitable person to participate in this campaign.”
Toulouse beat Nantes 5-1 in the French Cup final earlier this month.
Fourth-place Monaco drew 0-0 with fifth-place Lille. Fourth spot guarantees automatic qualification for the Europa League.
Monaco stayed five points ahead of Lille and is six clear of Rennes, which routed struggler Troyes 4-0 at home with Cameroon forward Karl Toko Ekambi scoring twice. Troyes became the third side relegated along with Ajaccio and last-place Angers with one more team set to go down.
Nantes is in 17th place.
Auxerre is one point above Nantes in 16th place after losing 1-0 at Brest, while defender Faitout Maouassa netted a stoppage-time penalty to earn Montpellier a 1-1 home draw with Lorient.
PSG moved closer to a record 11th French title when it routed Ajaccio 5-0 on Saturday, with Mbappé scoring twice as Ajaccio went down.
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Jerome Pugmire, The Associated Press