by Joel Omotto
Karl Toko Ekambi was on target as Olympique Lyonnais secured their 1,000th Ligue 1 victory with an impressive 3-0 win over rivals Olympique de Marseille at the Stade Velodrome on Sunday to boost their chances of European qualification.
On the night when Lyon become only the fifth side to achieve the milestone, Toko Ekambi played 90 minutes before he was substituted in injury time after he had been deployed on the left-hand side of the attack.
Bradley Barcola caught the eye on the opposite flank, while Brazilian Lucas Paqueta played just behind French striker Moussa Dembele.
Democratic Republic of Congo striker Cedric Bakambu had just missed for Marseille with an open goal at his mercy three minutes from time when Lyon launched a counter attack.
Toko Ekambi started it with a nice pass inside the box that found Brazilian winger Tete who returned the ball for the Cameroonian to finish off the move with a precise effort inside the left post for Lyon’s third goal.
Toko Ekambi had a quiet game by his high standards, managing 84 per cent pass completion rate. He was dispossessed three times while winning just one aerial duel but he turned up when it mattered most as his only shot proved to be the goal that hammered the last nail in Marseille’s coffin.
Lyon created numerous problems for their hosts, attempting 12 shots, five on target, against their hosts nine (two on target) with Marseille’s Arkadiusz Milik, Paqueta and Dimitri Payet looking dangerous in the early exchanges.
However, it was the visitors who went ahead in the 55th minute through Franco-Angolan defender Castello Lukeba after Emerson Palmieri’s free-kick had deflected into his path.
Peter Bosz’s men made it 2-0 in the 76th minute with a brilliant Dembele header, the striker nodding home Malo Gusto's cross to silence the home crowd.
Marseille coach Jorge Sampaoli responded by introducing Bakambu for Milik, but he could not rescue the home side, missing two clear opportunities late on when through on goal.
Senegalese Pape Gueye had started in Marseille’s midfield alongside Frenchman Boubacar Kamara and Brazilian Gerson but he had little impact, managing a 65 per cent pass completion rate before he was substituted in the 75th minute for Morocco’s Amine Harit.
Sampaoli also brought in Senegalese forward Bamba Dieng for the ineffective Cengiz Under after 62 minutes but his introduction did not yield much for the home side who saw their two-match winning run brought to an end.
Victory sees seventh-placed Lyon (55 points) move within five points of Nice in fifth while Marseille’s hope of hanging onto second place and guaranteed Champions League qualification received a setback.