Marseille produced a Jekyll and Hyde performance to beat Rennes 2-1 on Sunday evening. OM were pretty much outplayed throughout most of the first half, but managed a freak equaliser right on the stroke of the interval. Previously, they had fallen behind to an early Doumbia goal. After the break though, Didier Deschamps’ men proved themselves and were much better than their opponents, eventually sealing success thanks to a Cheyrou strike.
OM came into the game still depleted because of the African Nations Cup. They also weren’t helped by the injury to Mbia who could be out for between 1-3 weeks, depending on what sources you read. OM lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, perhaps the surprise was Cheyrou in the middle after being doubtful with an ankle injury. There had been suggestions that OM would prefer a 4-4-2 formation in this game, but Deschamps instead opted for the more secure, less riskier tactic of having a couple of holding midfielders.
The game started slowly and not much happened inside the first 10 minutes. Then out of nowhere a poor clearance by Lucho left Doumbia with shooting room and he struck a fine low drive into the net from outside of the area. Rennes had nailed the first blow, and they visibly gained in confidence from going ahead. OM were struggling in defence, especially on the wings where Morel and Azpi seemed out of position all too often. Rennes were allowed to cross the ball often, and on some occasions those crosses developed into dangerous situations.
A couple of low shots went only just wide of the Mandanda post, whilst an Ekoko free kick wasn’t too far off the mark either. France’s number 1 also had to make one superb reflex save. OM didn’t really have much to offer except for a Lucho shot wide when he should’ve done better, and also a Cheyrou backflick header which Diallo tipped over the bar. The visitors were dangerous on the break, but were having big problems getting a stranglehold on the game. Just overall, Rennes looked better in all departments and were playing well.
Sometimes they say ‘you’d rather be lucky than good’ and lucky is exactly what OM were just before halftime. From a seemingly harmless position, Remy sent in a cross which deflected off Apam and crept into the back of the net at the back post. It was an ill deserved leveller, but OM had found a way back into the match and could breathe easier at the break. A big improvement was needed though because OM’s performance so far was pretty unacceptable.
The hosts should’ve regained the lead not long after the restart. Ekoko had a big chance close to goal and his effort was definitely heading in with Mandanda beaten. However, Nkoulou flung himself at the ball and performed a world class block to keep the scoreline level. Little did everyone know that this would be Rennes’ last proper chance of the match. This seemed the turning point for OM and from this moment on they were far better.
Rennes simply didn’t show up in the 2nd half. Defensively they were all at sea, the backline was all over the place and regularly out of position. The midfield failed to retain the ball and a huge number of passes were inaccurate, often given away to OM players. It was the visitors who gradually had a stranglehold on the game, the noose was tightening around Rennes’ neck and coach Antonetti knew it. Without creating anything ‘clear cut’ it was OM who were definitely better now and applying pressure on a regular basis.
Antonetti brought on new signing Mevlut Erding around the 60th minute. But he was to have no impact at all, and in all honestly I hardly noticed he was on the field. In fairness, he was given no service and the Rennes defence and midfield was letting down its attack force. The wining goal for OM came in the 76th minute through Cheyrou. The ball was horrendously given away by Doumbia and the resulting counter attack eventually led to Cheyrou striking on goal from just outside the area. Still then, the shot should’ve been saved but for some reason Diallo could only get a hand on it, failing to prevent the goal. The young 19 year old custodian clearly showed his inexperience in this situation.
Some Rennes fans had been very worried about Costil’s suspension here, and their fears were proved correct, clearly Diallo wasn’t up to the task. The last 15 minutes were controlled by OM and they never really gave Rennes a sniff. Deschamps made all 3 subs in the last 10 mins as time management became important. One late chance fell to Remy but he fired wide when the goal was open. Diallo had previously rushed out to contest a ball with Brandao, but he was left in no mans land and was lucky that Remy couldn’t hit the target. It mattered little in the end because OM held on easily to register a 2-1 win. Rennes can have regrets because they were clearly better in the first half, but failed to ‘kick on’ after going ahead.
Man of the match :- Nkoulou
Quite simply he was a rock at the back all night and his highlight was a potentially match winning block just after half time which prevented a certain goal. He controlled and marshalled the OM defence tonight in the absence of Diawara and Mbia, the ex-Monaco man hardly put a foot wrong.
Cheyrou :- Considering he himself had admitted he wasn’t 100% fit heading into the game, he performed really well. Was very active after HT and dominated the midfield mopping up loose balls. His performance was topped off by scoring the winning goal.
Fanni :- Often a man who has taken a fair amount of criticism from OM fans, so I feel he deserves a mention for a solid display today. Played CDEF, where he showed he is very comfortable, despite preferring the right back role. Looked very composed and in control, especially after HT and worked well with Nkoulou.
Worst performer :- Lucho
After a good performance against Lille in the last ligue match, he was simply back to a poor standard here. He gave the ball away which led to the Doumbia goal and just overall he failed to make anything happen. His passing radar was inaccurate on occasions, and whilst he didn’t have a shocking performance, much more is expected of him. He is a man who has constantly failed to live up to expectations this season, and quite simply if he moved to Porto before the end of January, I wouldn’t mourn his departure.