There are moments in sport which can be classed as ‘definitive’. Andre-Pierre Gignac’s goal and OM’s 1-0 win at Le Stade Mosson might well prove to be one of those occasions.
To win on the road is never easy in Ligue 1. To win in Montpellier these days is a very difficult achievement, the last time it happened was 11 months ago when PSG beat them 3-0 here. This has been one of the key fortress stadiums in Ligue 1 and a major reason why they won the title last season. Truth be told though, they were pretty awful here and offered virtually no attacking threat, nullified by OM’s excellent defence.
Approaching the game, Montpellier were favourites with the bookies despite them suffering a stuttering start to the season. Marseille were defending a 100% record but everyone was saying ‘it cant last’ or ‘they only beat Reims and Sochaux’ In some respect I can see that point, but by picking up 3 points in this fixture OM have perhaps demonstrated they are for real and mean business this season.
Elie Baup had 3 key decisions to make regarding team selection. The fitness of Valbuena, Andre Ayew and of course Remy was all questionable, but would he risk any of them in the XI? In the end, Ayew and Valbuena were included and Remy benched. OM lined up in a 4-2-3-1 / 4-3-3 formation variation which offered a good balance between defence and attack.
The first half was in one word, forgettable. Both teams played out a tactical game of chess and there were very few chances created. The best opportunity for OM was through a Gignac header but he headed over the bar following an excellent Valbuena cross. At the other end, the closest Montpellier came was through Belhanda who smacked a thumping volley against the bar. He was given offside but replays clearly showed he was actually on, and the OM defence had gotten away with it.
The big encouragement for OM at halftime was how solid they had been defensively. Montpellier just hadn’t looked like breaking through, the likes of N’Koulou and Fanni were solid as a rock. Once again, passing had been short and accurate, also played at a mixture of fast and slow tempo. There was a really nice rhythm to OM’s play.
The first 10-15 mins of the 2nd half were a little more livelier and the match remained an even contest. Both sides tried to make things happen, but neither looked particularly more dangerous than the other. However, from the hour mark onwards, it seemed as though OM gained more confidence, direction and belief. Elie Baup’s men managed to get a stranglehold on Montpellier and the hosts level of threat was virtually nothing right until the final whistle.
The problem was always going to be the ability to create clear cut chances. For as poor as they were going forwards, Montpellier had also demonstrated a fairly strong defence and it was in this part of the field that their organisation was better. But some cracks had started to show, strange decision making along with some dodgy goalkeeping by Jourdren must have worried home fans. In the 77th minute this was to come back and bite Montpellier hard when OM scored the only goal of the game.
It all started innocuously with Montpellier comfortably in possession of the ball. But Daniel Congre let slip a poor pass and Amalfitano intercepted in a dangerous position. The ex Lorient man passed to Gignac who turned and shot towards the bottom left corner. The shot lacked general power, but inexplicably Jourdren failed to save and let the ball slip through his fingers. It was a totally preventable goal from Montpellier’s point of view, but OM and Gignac weren’t complaining!
The celebration from Gignac was extensive and the whole OM bench of both players and coaches engulfed him as he moved to the sidelines. It was an emotional moment and a potentially definitive goal for both OM and their resurgent striker. Loic Remy came off the bench and should’ve added a 2nd goal late on as OM easily held onto their 1-0 win.
When it was announced that Elie Baup was new OM coach, it must be said that the general response from fans was one of negativity. I myself was disappointed, but right now I have to hold my hands up to the ex Nantes boss. Under very difficult circumstances regarding transfers and various other situations he has managed to get this OM side playing together as a TEAM and for each other. You can tell the players are enjoying their football and there is a feeling of togetherness. Baup looks like a cool figure on the sidelines too and has demonstrated a surprising tactical ‘nous’ depending on what opposition OM are playing.
Right now, the results and performances by OM this season are much better than expected. This 1-0 victory away at Le Stade Mosson simply shows the big progress they have made and nobody can afford to treat them lightly anymore.
Andre Ayew 5/10
Referee (Ruddy Buquet) 6/10
Official OMarseilleUK Man of the match :– Gignac
Big respect to the CDEF pairing of Nkoulou and Fanni, but Gignac’s goal and his continued good form will be what everyone remembers here. Aside from the goal he was a threat all day anyway and offered plenty to the team.