Thauvin stars as Marseille wins at Rennes 3-0 in Ligue 1

By JEROME PUGMIRE

AP Sports Writer

PARIS (AP) Winger Florian Thauvin joined Neymar as the best passer in the French league and added a goal as Marseille won at Rennes 3-0 on Saturday.

He almost got an incredible fourth goal for Marseille in injury time, hitting the crossbar with a delightful floating chip from near the halfway line.

Thauvin has nine assists, in addition to nine league goals, and is staking a strong claim for a place in France's squad for the World Cup in Russia. More scintillating performances like this and it will be easy for coach Didier Deschamps to make up his mind.

After shrugging off missing a first-half penalty, Thauvin set up striker Valere Germain for a close-range finish in the 35th minute.

Midfielder Morgan Sanson made it 2-0 with a fine curling strike from the edge of the penalty area just before halftime, after swapping passes with Germain.

The irrepressible Thauvin finished off Rennes in the 82nd, drifting to the back post to meet Luiz Gustavo's dipping cross and sending a looping header over goalkeeper Tomas Koubek.

Marseille remained in fourth place, level on points with Lyon and Monaco but trailing on goal difference. Second-place Monaco was at Montpellier later Saturday.

"We won in style," Thauvin said. "I hope we can keep going like this."

Koubek and Marseille counterpart Steve Mandanda did well in the first half, with Koubek clawing away Thauvin's penalty with both hands in the 27th minute.

Marseille started well, with Argentine forward Lucas Ocampos twice going close.

The visitors almost paid the price midway through the first half when Rennes left back Ramy Bensebaini's low cross from the flank found midfielder Adrien Hunou, whose point-blank shot was excellently saved by Mandanda.

That was as good as it got for Koubek.

League leader Paris Saint-Germain, which leads Monaco by nine points, is away to fifth-place Nantes on Sunday.

Updated January 13, 2018