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Football | France

Andre-Pierre Gignac © Action Images

Gignac strike fires Marseille to victory



An injury-time strike from Andre-Pierre Gignac secured Marseille three crucial points in their Ligue 1 title pursuit as they beat Montpellier 3-2 on Saturday.

Andre Ayew had given Marseille the lead on 14 minutes before Emanuel Herrera replied for the visitors.

John Utaka's 56th-minute goal put a resurgent Montpellier on course for a fifth win in six matches but Jordan Ayew levelled 11 minutes from time before Gignac's late intervention earned Elie Baup's side a dramatic victory.

"I had a difficult match against two beasts at the back. It took only one (chance) which came at the end. (Making it) even better for the team and the supporters," said Gignac, who went on to praise his team's character and fighting spirit.

"Against some of the big teams in the French league, we perhaps have a bit less quality (...) but the level of guts and heart is right up there."

The result pushed Marseille to within one point of leaders Lyon, who were held to a goalless draw at home to Evian on Friday, with arch-rivals Paris Saint-Germain lying third, three points off the pace, ahead of their trip to Bordeaux on Sunday.

Andre Ayew, available for selection after his omission from Ghana's Africa Cup of Nations squad, put Marseille ahead as he twisted to head Joey Barton's cross beyond Geoffrey Jourdren.

The hosts' lead was short-lived though as Emanuel Herrera hauled Montpellier level just three minutes later, running onto Utaka's pass before rounding goalkeeper Steve Mandanda and steering in from a tight angle.

Defending champions Montpellier, whose hopes of retaining their Ligue 1 crown were extinguished following a disastrous start to the campaign, appeared on track for a fifth win in six matches as Utaka stabbed home after latching onto Remy Cabella's ball into the box.

But Jordan Ayew turned in his brother's low cross from close range to draw Marseille back on level terms before Gignac capitalised on a defensive error from Daniel Congre to slot the ball beyond Jourdren in the first minute of additional time.

Lorient jumped up to fourth following a 3-2 win at home to strugglers Troyes. First-half efforts from Kevin Monnet-Paquet and Enzo Reale gave the home side a two-goal lead before Jeremie Brechet pulled one back for Troyes on 66 minutes. Gregory Bourillon then added a third for Lorient, while Fabien Camus netted a late consolation.

Saint-Etienne halted a sequence of six matches without victory as Brandao's second-half goal secured a 1-0 victory for Christophe Galtier's side, while a Franck Tabanou brace guided Toulouse past bottom club Nancy 2-1.

Adrian Mutu notched his fifth goal of the season for Ajaccio as the Corsicans drew 1-1 against Valenciennes with Opa Nguette tallying his first senior goal.

Earlier, Sochaux climbed out of the relegation zone following a controversial 1-0 victory at home to Reims that saw them maintain their perfect start to the new year.

Loic Poujol forced the ball over the line from Rafael Dias' corner on 15 minutes with replays suggesting the midfielder pushed it in with his arm.

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