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Payet strike helps Marseille strengthen grip on second spot

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Paris (AFP)

Dimitri Payet helped Marseille maintain their hot streak with the only goal in a 1-0 win over rock-bottom Toulouse on Saturday that maintained their grip on second place in Ligue 1.

Former West Ham forward Payet struck the winner from distance shortly after half-time at the Stade Velodrome to extend Marseille's unbeaten run to 16 matches in all competitions.

Andre Villas-Boas' side are still nine points behind leaders Paris Saint-Germain, who play Lyon at the Parc des Princes on Sunday.

"Today we needed a moment of inspiration, and Payet gave it to us," said Villas-Boas.

Payet's winner covered up an uncharacteristically subdued Marseille display in which relegation fodder Toulouse dominated for long stretches and could easily have levelled in the closing stages.

Marseille came into the match having beaten Saint-Etienne 2-0 midweek and a goalless draw last weekend.

"I think tiredness hit us, as well as a bit of anxiety," Villas-Boas continued.

"After Payet's goal the match completely changed, we sat back to defend and Toulouse had the ball."

Payet could have had a second late in the game but fired just wide after bursting through the Toulouse defence.

Veteran goalkeeper Steve Mandanda preserved Marseille's lead with an impressive diving save from Belgian forward Aaron Leya Iseka's shot in the 85th minute.

The win also gave Marseille a nine-point lead over third-placed Rennes who host Brest later on Saturday.

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