PARIS (AP) — Andre-Pierre Gignac's late winner gave Marseille a 1-0 win at Valenciennes on Saturday as last year's runner-up maintained its perfect start to the French league season.
Marseille is provisionally top of the table after Lyon dropped its first points of the season in a surprise 1-0 home loss to Reims, which also saw it miss a penalty. Saint-Etienne will join Marseille if it beats Lille on Sunday.
"At the beginning of the season, points are important but it's also a way to prepare ourselves for what will be a difficult September with a lot of matches in a row," Marseille coach Elie Baup said. "The fact that we have nine points allows us to approach well our first big match against Monaco next weekend.
"We still have a lot of things to work on but it's better to correct things and to continue to work while winning our matches."
Gignac scored with little more than five minutes remaining. Andre Ayew headed a corner toward goal and Valenciennes goalkeeper Nicolas Penneteau could only palm the effort down for the onrushing Gignac to score his third goal in as many games.
Marseille should have taken the lead earlier in the match but failed to make the most of their opportunities.
Valenciennes had a chance to level near the end but Opa Nguette fired wide of the left upright when all alone in front of an empty net.
The rain was pouring down in Lyon and the players were clearly finding it difficult on the sodden pitch. So difficult were the conditions that there was more than a half hour delay to the start of the second half as groundsmen worked on the waterlogged pitch.
Play eventually did resume and Alexandre Lacazette went close to giving Lyon the lead on the hour mark with a deft chipped volley which crashed off the crossbar — although the striker was flagged offside.
Lyon should have broken the deadlock in the 71st minute when it was awarded a penalty for a push on Jordan Ferri by Reims striker Gaetan Courtet. However, Clement Grenier blazed his spot kick over the bar.
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