Belgian forward Batshuayi scores 2 as Marseille thumps Lens 4-0; Monaco wins 3-1 at Reims


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PARIS — Belgian forward Michy Batshuayi enhanced his growing reputation with two more goals as third-place Marseille thumped Lens 4-0 on Sunday to move one point behind Lyon and two adrift of leader Paris Saint-Germain in a hard-fought French title race.

Batshuayi replaced top scorer Andre-Pierre Gignac at halftime and made an immediate impact, scoring one minute into the second half to give the visitors the lead.

Last month, Batshuayi did exactly the same, coming off the bench and scoring immediately in a 2-2 draw at Saint-Etienne.

"Whether I start games or not, I have to stay focused. I work hard in training and I'm rewarded in the games," the 21-year-old Batshuayi said. "Every time I get chances I do everything to put them away. Things are going well for me at the moment, I'm happy for the team. Of course the title is possible."

He took his season's tally to eight goals in 19 games — with only five of those as starts — when he scored his side's fourth goal deep into injury time. In between his goals, midfielder Alaixys Romao struck in the 67th and winger Andre Ayew pounced five minutes later.

Marseille had struggled on the road for most of the season until a 6-1 rout of Toulouse two weeks ago.

The title race is intriguingly poised and could take another twist when it resumes after the international break, with PSG travelling to play Marseille on April 5.

Monaco is also in contention, one point behind Marseille and with a game in hand.

But Marseille appears to be peaking at the right time and — like Lyon — has no other competitions to play in, while PSG is chasing a domestic treble and is through to the Champions League quarterfinals.

Since returning from the African Cup of Nations, where he reached the final playing for Ghana last month, Ayew has scored four goals in six games, adding some much-needed firepower to an attack overly reliant on Gignac in the first half of the campaign.

Marseille started the game well, with Gignac missing a chance in the first minute and again two minutes later after being set up by winger Dimitri Payet. But 19th-place Lens came back into the game and goalkeeper Steve Mandanda twice foiled striker Yoann Touzghar in the first half.

"We had problems in the first half but in the second we were able to dictate play," Romao said. "We have very good teamwork in this side and top-quality players."

Payet set up the first goal and was involved in the second when his free kick bounced off the post and fell kindly for Romao.

Bielsa has earned a reputation as a fearless coach and he again showed no mercy, hauling Gignac — just like he did against Saint-Etienne.

It proved another smart move from the Argentine coach as Batshuayi again showed Gignac — Marseille's top scorer with 16 league goals — how to be more clinical. Batshuayi also had another goal ruled out for offside and was involved in the build up to Ayew's goal.

Earlier, teenage striker Anthony Martial scored his fourth league goal in the last three games as Monaco won 3-1 at Reims.

Brazilian defender Fabinho and midfielder Nabil Dirar also scored for Monaco, while forward Diego Rigonato netted for Reims.

Monaco is enjoying a strong resurgence following a poor start to the season, and coach Leonardo Jardim's team is also qualified for the Champions League quarters, where it will take on Juventus.

"We've had a taste of the Champions League this year and we want to back next season," Dirar said.

Also, Ivory Coast winger Max-Alain Gradel scored both goals in Saint-Etienne's 2-0 home win against Lille, taking his tally to 10 this season — including five in the last four games.

Lille midfielder Rony Lopes was sent off in the 52nd.

Fifth-place Saint-Etienne is one point behind Monaco, having played one game more, and is four clear of sixth-place Bordeaux.

Lyon lost 2-1 at home to Nice on Saturday, which beat Lorient 3-1 at home on Friday.

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