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Marseille end 18-year title wait
Didier Deschamps' side win 3-1 for first French championship since stripped of 1992 title.
Last Modified: 05 May 2010 21:44 GMT
Niang got the second before Lucho Gonzalez wrapped up the title in Provence [AFP]

Olympique Marseille ended an 18-year wait for the French title when late goals by Mamadou Niang and Lucho Gonzalez secured a 3-1 home win over Rennes in Ligue 1.

The Provence side moved on to 75 points, an unassailable eight-point lead over second-placed Lille with two games left for their first crown since they were stripped of the 1992 title.

At the Stade Velodrome, Rennes striker Jimmy Briand cancelled out Gabriel Heinze's early opener before the break, but Marseille struck back late in the second half on Wednesday.

Senegal striker Niang made it 2-1 in the 76th minute and Argentine midfielder Lucho Gonzalez wrapped it up two minutes later.

"It rewards nine months of hard work," coach Didier Deschamps, who was the last OM captain to lift the national trophy, told French TV channel Orange Sport.

"The first half was not easy for us, with all the expectations weighing on our shoulders."

Stripped

Marseille, stripped of the title in 1993 following a match-fixing scandal the same year they won the European Champions League, also won the League Cup this season but the title had a sweeter taste.

Heinze opened the scoring with a 25-metre free kick in the fourth minute, triggering wild celebrations among the capacity stadium.

Rennes, however, controlled the game and Briand grabbed a deserved equaliser seven minutes from the break.

The French international, linked with a move to Marseille next season, headed home from Asamoah Gyan's cross after he was left unmarked by Heinze.

Two minutes before the interval, Valbuena found Niang in the box with a defence splitting pass, but keeper Nicolas Douchez dived at the Senegal striker's feet.

Niang was pushed in the box by France defender Rod Fanni on the hour but referee Ruddy Buquet did not award the penalty.

Deschamps replaced Brandao with Hatem Ben Arfa and the move spurred OM back into the game.

Douchez failed to block a Valbuena strike and Niang, who had followed up, fired home from close range.

Beyond doubt

Lucho put the result beyond doubt two minutes later after benefiting from excellent work by Ben Arfa on the left flank, the Argentine's curling shot from just outside the box effectively sealing Marseille's ninth French league title.

Earlier, Lille moved up to second with a 2-0 win at Toulouse, leapfrogging AJ Auxerre after the Burgundy side slumped to a 2-1 defeat at fourth-placed Olympique Lyon.

Lyon, who grabbed all three points when Bosnia midfielder Pjanic netted with three minutes left, stayed fourth on 65 points and they have a game in hand.

Bordeaux dropped to sixth following a 1-1 draw at Nice which dashed their hopes of playing in the Champions League next season.

The 2009 French champions trail Lille and Auxerre by six points.

The top two teams in Ligue 1 qualify for the Champions League and the third-placed side go into the playoffs.

Second-from-bottom Boulogne, who lost 1-0 to St Etienne, and 18th-placed Le Mans, beaten 3-2 at Nancy, were relegated.

Source:
Reuters
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