Inspired Payet performance sends Marseille back to the top
After a turbulent week which saw their club president Vincent Labrune among a number of people held in police custody in relation to historical transfer dealings, Olympique de Marseille gave their fans something to cheer about on Sunday evening, with a 3-1 home victory against Bordeaux at the Vélodrome in their first fixture since their Classico defeat to Paris Saint-Germain.
Marcelo Bielsa’s OM side went a point clear at the top of the league ahead of their capital city rivals thanks to three second-half goals, and in particular another top performance from one of the stars of the season so far, their creative midfield Dimitri Payet. Les Marseillais’ sixth consecutive home win and Nantes’ goalless draw with Saint-Étienne sent Willy Sagnol’s Bordeaux side down a place into fifth in the overall standings.
Moroccan international Abdelaziz Barrada made his first start for the home side, as did youth product Benjamin Aloé, who came into the line-up beside Rod Fanni in the heart of the back four. Despite clear Marseille dominance in the opening forty-five, both sides created chances but were equally unable to convert and they headed up the tunnel to return to the vestiaries with the match tied goalless.
The home side continued to dictate the game in the early stages of the second-half, but their high-pressing game eventually lead to their downfall on 55 minutes.
With more men up the park than back, left-back Benjamin Mendy’s poor infield pass in his own half proved to be catastrophic, as Bordeaux captain Grégory Sertic intercepted the loose ball quickly, before feeding in the overlapping Nicolas Maurice-Belay.
The former Sochaux and Monaco man then found Thomas Touré, who showed no hesitation when sending the ball past Steve Mandanda to give the away side the lead. The first-time strike, which even the most ardent Girondins supporter would have to concede came totally against the run of play, was Touré’s second goal of what has been an impressive season so far for the 22-year-old.
However it didn’t take long for the home side, who were as usual being pushed on by their fervent supporters, to respond with an equalizer. On the hour mark, Dimitri Payet picked out Mario Lemina, who was once again filling in for the suspended Alaixys Romao, with a cross that appeared to almost paralyze the Bordeaux defence.
Lemina then fired a header past former OM goalkeeper Cédric Carrasso, which he dedicated after the game to his newborn son. Marseille then went in the lead with five minutes of the match remaining, when Payet once again proved his value with another assist from a corner, which André-Pierre Gignac did well to head home for his eleventh goal of the season.
The Marseille number nine was tightly marked by Nicolas Pallois throughout the game, but he did well to evade his marker to steer the ball into the net.
Bielsa’s league leaders then put the game beyond Bordeaux’s reach in the ninetieth minute of the game with their third goal of the game. Michy Batshuayi, who has had a frustrating time in the Phocean city, scored his first league of the season since his Summer transfer from Belgian outfit Standard de Liège.
Rod Fanni’s driven shot was pushed back out into the danger zone by Carrasso and thus afforded the Belgian a tap-in of which he would be extremely grateful. What the goal meant to the centre-forward and his teammates, as well as his normally extremely reserved manager, was clear to see from the ensuing celebrations.
On the day, Marseille were logical winners and the victory extends their impressive home form on La Canebière. Even more significant is the fact that the result came after a week which was extremely trying for the club and its supporters in general, so a win which sends their beloved club to the top of the table was also perhaps the perfect remedy.
Marseille have been criticized at times this season for their inflexibility in terms of the relative lack of squad depth that they appear to posses, however Sunday’s performance showed that alongside the regular starters Gignac and Payet, there are other players in the squad such as Lemina and Barrada who are willing to step up to the plate when they are needed most.
There have also at times been doubts about whether Bielsa’s side are psychologically strong enough to come back and win games when they’ve fallen behind, but Sunday’s victory will give supporters great encouragement in this regard.
The prospect of going four points clear again of PSG with a win against Nantes at home on Friday night will surely be a fantastic incentive for a seventh consecutive Marseillais home victory.
Not plain sailing, but Paris Saint-Germain leave it late to end Metz’s unbeaten home record
The first game of the Matchday saw Laurent Blanc’s PSG travel to Moselle to take on a Metz side that remained unbeaten at home in Ligue 1 this season.
Fresh from their derby triumph over Marseille, les Parisiens were missing regulars David Luiz, Lucas, Marco Verratti and Serge Aurier, but they were boosted by the return of Gregory Van der Wiel and Thiago Motta to starting line-up after suspension.
An eventful three-two away victory pushed PSG into a temporary top spot position which put added pressure on Marseille. The win also pushed the away side four points clear of third-place Lyon, a deficit which Hubert Fournier’s side could only reduce to three points with their goalless away draw at Bastia.
Metz, however, drop down to twelfth position as a result of their narrow defeat, but les Grenats, and in particular West Ham loanee Modibo Maïga, reminded the rest of the league how tough a trip to the Stade Saint-Symphorien can prove to be.
Despite their injury setbacks, it took just nine minutes for the French Champions to open the scoring, with Javier Pastore netting his first goal of the season. Jérémy Choplin’s heavy touch after a poor backpass from Ahmed Kashi was pounced upon by the Argentine international, and the former Palermo midfielder showed superb composure to lift the ball delicately over the onrushing Johan Carrasso.
PSG’s other Argentine, Ezequiel Lavezzi, played an important role in his side’s second of goal of the game on 24 minutes. His curved cross into the box was intercepted by Metz left-back Gaëtan Bussmann, but the former France U19, who signed a new two-year deal with his side yesterday (Monday), could only divert the ball past his own keeper. After 33 minutes of play, it looked like Paris-Saint Germain were cruising with ease towards victory.
Metz pulled a goal back just four minutes after the restart when they were awarded a penalty after Adrien Rabiot,who was making a rare start for Blanc’s side, brought down winger Serguei Krivets. The Belorussian’s endeavor paid off as Maïga converted the resulting penalty with ease.
The home side, with their fans behind them, then began to apply more pressure on their hosts and Gregory Van der Wiel then gave away another penalty when he handled the ball when he was caught off-guard by a cross from the right-wing. Maïga once again did what was asked off him, sending Salvatore Sirigu the wrong way again to give his side a goal which saw them go level with 37 minutes left on the clock.
Sirgiu was called into action as the home side tried to do the unthinkable and grab a winner. Lavezzi however won the three points for his side when tucked the ball in from close range.
The victory was by no means the product of a vintage Parisien performance, but once again Laurent Blanc’s side demonstrated the fact that they are able to pick up three points when they are not on their best form, an ability which is highly desirable when confronted with some of the league’s toughest away fixtures.
Despite their injury list, PSG managed to start the game with an enviable starting eleven. This squad depth is equally desirable and it will act as a real advantage for the capital city side as they look to overtake Marseille.
Monaco woe continues
The contrast between Monaco’s fortunes this season and last year’s campaign has been tragically incredible. The Monégasque side have looked a shadow of the team that last year, even during Radamel Falcao’s lengthy absence through injury, would regularly impress under their former coach Claudio Ranieri.
Under the current coach Leonardo Jardin, their home form has dropped dramatically, with Monaco already having lost more games at home this season sur le rocher than they did throughout their entire 2013-2014 campaign.
That said, however, even if they have been in extremely poor form this season, their two-all draw at home to newly promoted SM Caen falls way below the expectations of the Monte-Carlo-based club.
Former Clermont left-back Emmanuel Immorou turned the ball into his own net to give away an early on goal on four minutes, giving Monaco the perfect chance to make the game theirs, however the Monéqasques failed build upon the first goal during the remainder of the first-half.
Bengali-Fodé Koïta unleashed a rocket from inside the Monaco box to give the away side an equalizer just five minutes after the restart. Things then went bad from worse for the home side when just under ten minutes later when Geoffrey Kondogbia inadvertently headed passed Danijel Subašić, to put the travelling side from Normandy ahead, scoring the game’s second own goal.
Some outstanding saves from Rémy Vercourtre prevented Monaco from pulling level, however Monaco eventually did score when midfielder João Moutinho scored with a cool side foot finish.
The game finished as a draw, which was perhaps a fair result, however Caen can feel aggrieved towards the fact that their substitute Sloan Privat, a formidable and robust but painfully slow centre-forward, scored what appeared to be a perfectly good goal that was ruled-out for offside.
The draw however, though being impressive for SM Caen and giving them a boost in their fight to stay out of the relegation zone, will not be enough to spare Monaco’s blushes.
With rumours circulating that there could be even more exits from the club in January, a very long, uncharacteristically bleak and in short daunting remainder of the season could be lying ahead of Leonardo Jardim’s side if the situation that they find themselves in does not start to improve rapidly.