PARIS — Paris St Germain claimed a clinical 2-0 win at bitter rivals Olympique de Marseille on Sunday to keep pace with fellow Ligue 1 title contenders Lille and Olympique Lyonnais.
Kylian Mbappe and Mauro Icardi found the back of the net in the first half to put third-placed PSG on 51 points from 24 games, three behind leaders Lille and one adrift of Olympique Lyonnais, who also won their matches this weekend.
The result left troubled Marseille, who have lost four of their last five games and had Dimitri Payet sent off in the last minute, in ninth place on 33 points from 22 games.
Marseille have been hit by off-field problems, with supporters breaking into the training centre amid protests against president Jacques-Henri Eyraud, coach Andre Villas-Boas being suspended after offering to resign and city mayor Benoit Payan saying he wanted to sell their Stade Velodrome stadium.
The club were, therefore, in desperate need of a victory against PSG, but the French champions made sure that would not happen.
Mbappe put the visitors in front after nine minutes, outsprinting Hiroki Sakai and beating keeper Steve Mandanda with a left-footed effort after being set up by Angel Di Maria for his 16th league goal of the season at the end of a lightning-quick counter attack.
Di Maria, however, limped off the pitch with a possible thigh injury one minute later and was replaced by Pablo Sarabia, nine days before PSG travel to Barcelona for their Champions League last-16 first leg.
Icardi doubled PSG’s tally on 25 minutes, deflecting Alessandro Florenzi’s cross with the back of his head into the far top corner.
The Argentine, who was denied a penalty after being pulled down by Sakai on the hour, was then substituted for Neymar in the 65th minute as the Brazilian came off the bench having been a pre-match doubt due to gastro-enteritis.
Marseille finished with 10 men when Payet was shown a straight red card for a reckless challenge on Marco Verratti.
Lille beat Nantes 2-0 away earlier on Sunday with Lyon humbling Racing Strasbourg 3-0 on Saturday.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis; Reuters