Monthly Archives: October 2012



I’ve registered for Movember and pledged to grow a moustache for 30 days to raise funds and awareness for men’s health. This year, we honour the great men who have grown before us and, as Movember and Sons, pay respect to the simple truth, “Knowledge is Power, the Moustache is King.”

As our forefathers always knew, the moustache is the mark of a man. Today, it is a man’s ribbon,a symbol to spark conversation and help change the face of men’s health.

You can take part either by growing one Dirty Son of a Mo as a Mo Bro, or join as a Mo Sista to help recruit others, share knowledge and support Mo growers.

To join my team of Movember Moustache Merchants go to

If you’d like to find out more about the type of work you’d be helping to fund by supporting Movember, take a look at the Programs We Fund section on the Movember website:

I would love some supporters of Marseille or Ligue 1 fans would get behind this campaign. Please tweet me @MarseilleUK or @Andrew_Js3 or leave a comment on this post if you are interested.

Kind regards,


Marseille v Lyon – ‘Olympico’ Preview

Sun 28/11/12 – 20:00 (UK) – Delayed on ESPN 9:45

Stade Velodrome

Ref. – Clement Turpin

Background –

Exactly 1 month after the game was originally due to take place Marseille take on Lyon as both teams have the opportunity to go top of the Ligue 1 table. Both teams form have faltered a little recently after strong starts to the season, although Lyon managed to continue their excellent form in the Europa League, qualifying for the knock-out stage with a game to spare, something OM didn’t manage. Regardless of tonight’s result one of the teams will knock psg off their perch. Because of this, there will be much more riding on this game than simply ‘bragging rights’ or ‘history’ as a victory for either team will confirm their title credentials.

Marseille –

In the last month Marseille have picked up 2 good wins in Ligue 1, away to Ajaccio, 2-0, and last week’s 1-0 home win over Lille. If Marseille perform with the discipline that they did in those 2 games then they have every chance of overcoming Olympic Lyonnais in the ‘Olympico’. Last season’s game saw Marseille race into a 2-0 lead only to be pegged back 2-2. This brought about an end to Marseille’s tremendous mid-season run of form that had seen them climb the table.

Marseille have no new injury concerns or absentees for this game. The 18 man squad consists of Mandanda, Fabri, Fanni, Abdallah, Diawara, Nkoulou, Morel, Mendes, Mbow, Kabore, Cheyrou, Barton, Abdullah, Valbuena,  A. Ayew, Remy, J. Ayew, Raspentino, Remy.

The starting line-up is likely to be the same as the 11 that started against Lille, with Diawara, Barton and J. Ayew keeping their places after impressive performance. Although he was caught of positions on a few occasions much of this might be down to the lack of starting football for Diawara this season. Barton’s delivery and tackles were among the best we have seen from him in a Marseille shirt and as he managed to have the ball in the net twice it would seem unfair to drop Jordan Ayew. Remy may make a late appearance as Baup tries to build up his fitness again to bring him into first 11 contention.

Having changed from the usual 4-2-3-1 formation used in the earlier part of the season, Baup will probably keep the 4-3-3 formation that worked so well against Lille. This formation allowed Barton to press forwards, and the team also maintained its width through Valbuena, while supporting Jordan Ayew with 2 secondary strikers.

Likely starting line-up and formation:


Who are they? –

Having finished 4th in Ligue 1 last season, many had feared for Remi Garde’s team this campaign. With losing Hugo Lloris, and also losing Cris, Pied, Cissokho and Kalstrom, Lyon’s squad looks quite bare. Thankfully for les Gones they managed to keep hold of Gomis, Bastos and Lopez, all of whom were linked with moves away. Ahead of this game Garde is missing Lopez, Briand and Lovren through injury and may choose expeirnece over youth with Reveillere and Bastos gaining starts despite only just returning from injury.

Mr. Consistent for Lyon this season has been Steed Malbranque. (In all honesty, that is not something I expected to write at any point this season, especially not for a team like Lyon). From what I have witnessed and from the stats and reviews, Malbranque has been a dominating force in the OL team. His composure and experience has shone through, and his ability to dictate the pace of the game has rarely been matched by any opposition. Lacking in speed, Malbranque manages to get into position early, allowing himself to either play in team-mates with accurate passes, or dribble with the ball. Because of his ‘low centre of gravity’ he can be very difficult to disposes and tackle.

In the midfield battle it may be up to Kabore to pick up Malbranque from his central position. Marseille need to be fully aware of the pace that Lyon can counter-attack with. Dropping deeper early, could actually help against a counter-attacking team. Although there is more space for the opposition to attack it allows the defenders to settle into a position and begin to push the attacking play out wide, away from the goal, allowing the midfield an opportunity to track-back into more central positions and defend against any crosses.

Summary –

Because of the position of both teams in the table it would be easy to argue that there is less pressure on these 2 sides collectively ahead of this game. No matter what the result, one of the teams will end the night 1st in the Ligue standings. Having said that, the benefits of a win do add pressure to the players. A win for OM and they go 3 points clear, Lyon would go 2 points clear with a win, and a draw would put OM 1 point clear and Lyon joint 2nd with psg. Unlike last year’s Coupe de la Ligue final, hopefully the pressures of the occasion will bring out the best of 2 teams eager to show that they are real title contenders and this ‘Olympico’ can be a real ‘classique’.

Predicted score: Marseille 2v2 Lyon   

Odds ( correct at time of publication)

Marseille 2.10

Draw 3.20

Lyon 3.60

Allez l’OM

Swanny (@MarseilleUK & @Andrew_Js3)


Gladbach 2-0 OM – Defeat in the Europa League at Borussia Park.

Marseille fell to a 0-2 defeat away to Borussia Monchengladbach in what was a fairly low key match containing few chances. In truth, not too much split the teams here. It was only a penalty and a long range shot out of nowhere which enabled the Germans to collect the 3 points. OM played fairly well, but much like their outing away to Troyes on Sunday, they failed to create many clear cut chances.

Squad rotation

It must be remembered that the more important game for Elie Baup’s men is the upcoming ligue 1 fixture at home to Lyon on Sunday. With that in mind, Cheyrou, Andre Ayew and Morel were all benched and it was a surprise that some of the other big names such as Valbuena weren’t given a breather either. Despite sitting on a comfortable 4 points in the group and perhaps having their minds elsewhere, OM knew that they could do with picking up something in this fixture, so everyone on the field would’ve been motivated.

The likes of Lucas Mendes, Jordan Ayew and of course Joey Barton all started, so plenty of fresh legs were brought into the side. Monchengladbach started brighter but OM gradually took over. A couple of Loic Remy chances went to waste, clearly he has yet to hit the right rhythm since his comeback from injury and is a work in progress at the moment. Things looked to be heading towards a scoreless first half but a penalty given for a handball on Kabore ensured the Gemrnas would be ahead come the interval.

50/50 penalty call against OM

I wont get into debates about whether it was or wasn’t a penalty here. As far as I’m concerned, by the letter of the law it was correct, but perhaps its 50/50 if some referees give it or not. It was a bit harsh on OM that they were behind at the break. For the most part they’d had plenty of possession and had looked lively, but a general lack of cutting edge was again the problem. This continued into the 2nd half where despite starting better and looking like they might get level, they just couldn’t manage to find a way to create enough chances.

25 yarder to seal victory for Monchengladbach

Joey Barton, who had a number of shots in this match was to come very close through a diving header but it hit his own man (Jordan Ayew) and came to nothing. Not long afterwards, Steve Mandanda was beaten by a 25 yard strike when perhaps he should’ve saved it. Undoubtedly the shot was well hit, but much like when Zlatan scored that ridiculously long free kick against him before the international break, I’m pretty sure a genuine world class keeper would’ve saved it. Mandanda is quality, but he has regressed a bit in the last few weeks and from certain long range positions he seems vulnerable.

The 2nd goal took the sting out of the game and OM heads visibly went down slightly. The hosts should’ve probably made it 3-0 but wasted a couple of chances. For the majority of 70 mins though, OM were arguably the slightly better side so can be aggrieved to have lost 2-0. In terms of the performance, there were plenty of positives and the team seemed to gel together nicely. The negatives are a defeat, conceding at crucial moments and that lack of penetration in the final 3rd to convert dominance into chances.

Sticky patch, look to the future

So where do Marseille go from here then? That early season form which saw such excellent performances, 6 straight victories in the ligue along with some impressive European displays seems to have gone down the wayside a bit. Realistically though, there isn’t too much to panic about. The defeat at VA was just one really bad day at the office, 2-2 at home to PSG was a decent outcome and to actually lose to Troyes was unlucky. This result in some ways is irrelevant because it was on the road facing arguably the toughest challenger in the group.

I’m pretty sure that if OM decide to take the return fixture seriously then they will pick up the 3 points and gain revenge on the Germans. The match at the weekend at home to rivals Lyon is a much more vital clash and its very important that the players are properly prepared for it. The squad rotation tonight should help the fitness of certain players, whilst someone like Loic Remy playing over an hour can only boost his fitness level too. This is a slightly sticky patch for Elie Baup’s men, but all will soon be quickly forgotten if they can pick up 3 points on Sunday evening.

Goals – (Poor quality)

Player ratings and comments

Mandanda 4/10 Has to be downgraded for being beaten from 25 yards out, it looked like he could’ve done better there.

Abdallah 6/10 Shows he is progressing and especially looks more confident coming forwards. Looked lively here and caused some problems.

Nkoulou 5/10 Solid, without being spectacular

Fanni 5/10 Same as Nkoulou really, was solid enough.

Mendes 5/10 Looked assured enough defensively, would like to see more of him in support of the attack though.

Barton 6/10 There’s no doubt he adds some steel to the midfield and some of his passes are genuinely class demonstrating good vision. Should stop shooting so much though, it’s a waste.

Kabore 4/10 He had a disappointing night. Gave away a penalty and got booked later, he looked frustrated here.

Amalfitano 5/10 Had some good moments, but all in all lacked penetration.

Valbuena 5/10 For his standards, looked below par. The Germans generally did a good job restricting him.

Jordan Ayew 6/10 Operated on the left wing and proved once again he is a versatile and adaptable player. Fired in a few good crosses and his contribution was mostly positive.

Remy 4/10 Physically he looks much better now, just needs to regain confidence mentally. The time has come for him to convert some of his chances, starting on Sunday night vs. Lyon.


Andre Ayew 6/10 Played the last 25 mins and was probably OMs best man on the field after they went 2-0 down. Looked much better and refused to give up, crossing was improved.

Raspentino N/A Only played the last 14 mins, so hard to give him a rating. He didn’t really do much though.

Cheyrou N/A Only played the last 7 mins, so unrated.

Europa League – Monchengladbach v Marseille – Match Preview

Thur 25/10/12 – 20:05 (UK)

Borussia Park, Monchengladbach

Ref. – Serge Gumienny (Bel.)

Background –

After an international break and a domestic game each the Europa League returns for Marseille and Borussia Monchengladbach on Thursday evening. Both teams have suffered 2 league defeats since their last Group C matches with OM coming unstuck by Valenciennes and Troyes, and Monchengladbach picking up their own embarrassing defeats at the hands of Paderborn and Werder Bremen. The Europa League will probably provide a suitable distraction from this slump in form and with 9 goals scored between them, this could be a thouroughly entertaining match.

Marseille –

The disappointment of losing to newly promoted Troyes on Sunday, was only equalled by the disappointment at the news that in form striker Andre-Pierre Gignac will be missing for a while with a broken foot. Worryingly, the defeat came from a performance that lacked any of the discipline, fortitude or desire the team had demonstrated against psg in the previous league game. A defeat can be taken on the chin, a defeat against a newly promoted team, who only had 2 points so far, who had conceded 19 times, who only had 3 recognised defenders available hurt like hell. With any luck, Elie Baup will have ‘discussed’ this with the team and needless to say he will be looking for a reaction from the team before they face Lyon this weekend.

Although the injury to APG will come as a blow to OM, it shouldn’t impact too greatly in this game, as it was expected that the fit again Loic Remy would start in European games. The squad that travelled to Germany consists of: Mandanda, Bracigliano, Fanni, Abdallah, Nkoulou, Mendes, Morel, Mbow, Kabore, Cheyrou, Barton, Abdulah, Valbuena, Amalfitano, A. Ayew, J. Ayew and Remy.

Some changes to the team will likely include Mendes replacing Morel and Barton replacing Kabore, as had been the case in the 5v1 humping of AEL in the 2nd Europa group game. Elie Baup will be expecting a huge improvement from Amalfitano too. After such a suberb season last time out, and starting well, dominating in games at the start of the season, and being one of the start players away at Fenerbahce, Amalfitano has been a missing link in recent games giving OM very little attacking width. His main contribution so far has been slapping psg’s Matuidi in a half-time scrap.

If Marseille wish to succeed in this game they need to play to their strengths and Monchengladbach’s weaknesses. This season these have shown to be teams attacking down the wings and through-balls. With Remy starting as the lone striker, his natural position allows him to run into the channels ahead of Andre Ayew or Amalfitano, and he can also run onto through-balls from Valbuena. Providing support is available to Remy, this is likely to be Marseille’s best threat on the ‘Gladbach goal.

Likely starting line-up and formation:

Who are they? –

After a string season last year, finishing 4th in the Bundesliga, ‘Gladbach have struggled at the start of this campaign and currently lie 13th after picking up only 2 wins from their first 8 games. Their 2 wins have came against Hoffenheim and Paderborn, 1 of which was a weak team last season, the other newly promoted from the 2nd Bundesliga.

It is important that Marseille don’t take anything for granted against ‘Gladbach though, as they well know that a team can struggle in the league and still perform well in Europa, as they themselves proved last year.

One of the ‘Gladbach’s stars this season has been attacking midfielder Juan Arango. The Venezuelan international has contributed 2 goals and 4 assists for his team this season. Arango is a good player on the ball and can play in team mates, as well as dribble or shoot if chances open up for him. The battle down OM’s right should be interesting as Abdallah has shown he can be a solid tackler, but he also likes to get forwards. Amalfitano can drop back and defend, however, has shown he is a bit of a hot-head and Arango is the type of player who can wind Amalfitano up. It might benefit if the covering in this position is supported by Barton, leaving Amalfitano to sit a little further up the pitch and exploit the space that Arango will leave.

If ‘Gladbach take the lead, it is likely that they will defend well to keep it, instead of pressing on for more. This will really test out the character of the Marseille squad, as there has been few times this season where they have shown they can fight back from a losing position, only managing to pick up draws against Fenerbahce and psg when they had been getting beat.

Summary –

With both teams having a slight dip in form in recent weeks, both managers and sets of fans will be looking for a positive reaction from the players, which will hopefully result in an open attacking game with both teams playing to their attacking strengths, looking to make the most of the oppositions defensive weaknesses. Having drew away to Fenerbahce, Marseille are probably just the stronger side since ‘Gladbach were defeated by Fenebahce at home. If Marseille do pick up a win, they will look almost certain to qualify, whereas a defeat for ‘Gladbach makes them almost certain to be knocked out of the competition.

Predicted score: Borussia Monchengladbach 2v2 Marseille

Odds ( correct at time of publication)

‘Gladbach 2.30

Draw 3.30

Marseille 3.10

Allez l’OM

Swanny (@MarseilleUK & @Andrew_Js3)

Troyes 1-0 OM match report – very bad night at the office

Marseille fell to a shock 0-1 loss away against Troyes as PSG took over at the top of the table. Facing the worst defence and arguably the worst team in ligue 1, it was a nightmare night for OM. To top things off leading scorer Andre Pierre Gignac will be out for the rest of 2012 with a foot injury. There have been many highs and positive points for OM so far this season, but this was arguably the lowest low, even worse than losing to Valenciennes.

The prognosis heading into the contest was very positive for Elie Baup’s men. Most of the squad was nearing full fitness, even Diawara isn’t far from a return. The coach had the luxury of keeping Loic Remy on the bench along with some other decent options. I think its fair to say that this was the strongest XI and bench OM had at their disposal all season. Troyes meanwhile, but were completely depleted and missed many players to injury, especially in defence.

Troyes severely weakened in defence

Troyes’ defence has been made to look a laughing stock by most sides this year. In total, they conceded 19 times in their 9 previous games this year, looking very shaky in the process. They only had 3 available defenders for this game, surely OM would tear them open easily yeh? Actually wrong. Troyes were to keep an amazing clean sheet and arguably deserve it too. For once, Jean Marc Furlan operated some sensible tactics in Ligue 1 and set up his team to be hard to break down. Mostly this year Troyes have looked to play in an attractive and attacking way, which has been to their detriment. Whether or not OM were expecting this again who knows, but they struggled to adapt having to break down a more resolute formation.

Lack of OM penetration

Yes, OM did have more possession and yes some chances were created but after all the huff and puff, the only meaningful effort on goal in the first half was an Amalfitano shot which Thuram beat away. OM just couldn’t create clear cut chances and Troyes defended well and solidly. To make matters worse, Gignac had to exit in the 20th minute after breaking his foot and he probably wont return to action until 2013. At the other end, Troyes offered little threat but they were never in danger of conceding, 0-0 at the interval summed things up.

After halftime, a Valbuena free kick was well saved by Thuram as OM looked to start the period strongly. But it was Troyes who came closest to breaking the deadlock when they smashed the crossbar thanks to a header from a corner. Yes, OMs deficiencies from set pieces came back to haunt them and would later cost them dearly. The best chance the visitors had all night arrived within a minute of Troyes hitting the bar. Loic Remy found himself all alone at the back post, seemingly looking nailed on to score, but he somehow fluffed his header into the ground.

Troyes’ late sucker punch winner

OM kept knocking on the door after that attempt, but most of the shots which tested Thuram were from long range and once again clear cut chances couldn’t be created. It was a real struggle for Baup’s men to break down this supposedly ‘weak’ Troyes defence. OM were making very hard work of things but so often this season they had managed to get the job done and get a result when it mattered. Clearly the players believed this and kept trying right until the end. However, there was to be a late twist in the tale as Troyes completed a smash and grab raid to steal the points for themselves. As so often is the case against OM, the origin of the goal was from a corner which wasn’t properly cleared. Nivet picked up the loose ball and fired home low into the bottom right corner. That made it 1-0Troyes and you just knew there and then that they’d hold on to complete a famous win.

Terrible result for OM

Clearly this is a totally unacceptable result for OM. No matter whether you have ambitions to win the title, finish in the European places, or even just finish inside the top 10 then you simply have to beat a side like Troyes. Credit the hosts for somehow producing their most solid display of the season, but with them missing so many players OM are severely guilty of not taking advantage. A fair outcome probably would’ve been a 0-0 draw, so why were OM so dismal at creating chances? This is very unexplainable because every other side this year has torn Troyes apart and made their defence look terrible. My only possible conclusion is that OM came here thinking they had already easily won and were too over confident. Lets hope that’s the reason, otherwise this result doesn’t bode very well for the rest of the season.

Whilst they were undoubtedly unlucky to go home with nothing, everyone should be ashamed of not leaving Troyes with a comfortable 3 points. This could be a very costly result come the end of the season against a side that will likely be relegated, maybe even as the bottom placed side.


Player ratings and comments

Mandanda 5/10 Hard to fault him for the goal, he did little wrong (or indeed anything) throughout and was hardly tested.

Abdallah 5/10 Defensively assured and did get forwards well, but his crossing was poor.

Nkoulou 4/10 Seemed to lack concentration in this match and wasn’t really up for it. Also picked up a silly yellow card.

Fanni 5/10 Troyes never really tested him out that much, he did ok.

Morel 4/10 Solid defensively, but again much like Abdallah his crossing was woeful and final delivery poor.

Kabore 5/10 Generally played alright and nearly scored with an excellent long range shot. But against a side like Troyes you’d expect him to exert his authority more and dominate the midfield. He didn’t.

Cheyrou 4/10 Much like Kabore, he did ok but is capable of far better. He should’ve really controlled the middle of the park against such weak opposition.

Valbuena 7/10 OMs best player. He was everywhere as usual causing problems and trying to make things happen. He’s clearly very confident at the moment and looks sharp. Final ball could maybe be better though.

A Ayew 3/10 Its about time he started to play better because he’s been well below par this season. Wins and good performances from others have masked his deficiencies. He needs to step it up.

Amalfitano 4/10 Maybe wasn’t 100% fit, didn’t look all that sharp anyway. His crosses were generally poor and except for one decent turn and shot in the first half he didn’t offer much threat.

Gignac N/A Only played 20 mins before getting injured, had looked lively before that.


Remy 4/10 He needs to score a goal in the liguie to get his confidence back. To be fair, he looked better and relatively dangerous the longer the match went on, but he has to be downgraded for missing such an easy header at a crucial time.

Jordan Ayew 5/10 Came on and played the last 25 mins on the right wing. Added some energy to the side, but ultimately failed to make that much of a difference.

Mendes N/A He only played the last 7 mins, difficult to assess his performance.

Troyes v Marseille – Match Preview

Sun 21/10/12 – 20:00 (UK)

Stade de l’Aube, Troyes

Ref. – Wilfred Bien

Background –

After a more than encouraging performance and result against most people’s favourites for the Ligue 1 title, psg, Marseille will look to continue their early season form against most people’s favourites for relegation, ESTAC Troyes. In the game against psg, Marseille showed exactly why they had such an excellent start to the season with the players playing with grit, determination and a bit of class (discounting Amalfitano’s slap!) all of which had been missing in the embarrassing 4-1 defeat by Valenciennes the week before. In contrast to OM’s 19 points from 8 games, Troyes have only managed to pick up 2 since their promotion to Ligue 1.  Worryingly for Marseille though, Troyes 2 sole points have come from probably their toughest opponents so far in the form of home draws against Lorient and Lille.

Marseille –

Le Classique was built up to be one of the games of the season and for the most part it didn’t disappoint. A fascinating and entertaining first half showed OM in some of their best form of the season, both attacking, and for the most part, defending too. Two moments of class from Ibrahimavic gave psg a share of the points that their negative end to the game possibly didn’t deserve.

All of Marseille’s internationals escaped without incident or injury during the international break, so the travelling squad is made up of: Mandanda, Bracigliano, Fanni, Abdallah, Nkoulou, Mendes, Morel, Mbow, Kabore, Cheyrou, Abdullah, Valbuena, Amalfitano, A. Ayew, Raspentino, Gignac, J. Ayew and Remy.

Given the performance in the classique it would be difficult for Baup to alter his starting line-up or the formation even with players like Remy, Mendes and Abdullah impressing recently, they may be compensated with a Europa League start this coming Thursday. Given the weaknesses that Troyes have shown so far this season, Marseille should again look to play to their own strengths. Expecting the majority of possession, it would be expected that Troyes will defend in numbers and look to score on the break, despite being the home team. Marseille should not panic if goals do not come early as chances created for the in-form Gignac can be supported by individual efforts from any of the other 3 attacking players. If chances have still not been converted, then having a player like Loic Remy to bring off the bench is a luxury not many Ligue 1 teams have.

Expected line-up and formation:  

Who are they? –

As mentioned earlier, Troyes have struggled since their promotion to Ligue 1. Picking up only 2 points from 8 games Jean-Marc Furlan’s hope for survival from this season seems a long way off already. AT present they have the 2nd worst defensive record in the ligue, and one of the poorest attacking records too.

Some of Troyes’ good attacking play this season has come from play down the wings. If Marseille allow Troyes to attack in this way, then they should ensure that Nkoulou and Fanni are in position to defend effectively. The pace that Valenciennes attacked with in week 7 caught OM out too often, leading to a number of chances and subsequently goals.

Quentin Othon and Mounir Obbadi are likely to be the two players working the wide positions for Troyes. Abdallah and Morel must be careful to push their respective opponents wide and force them into crosses from difficult positions, allowing the rest of the OM team to take up suitable defensive positions. Allowing these two players time to dribble and possible cut inside would be most dangerous and is likely to give Troyes licence to shoot from distance and potentially score.

Summary –

Much of the media have this as a routine away win, and given the contrast of the two teams on paper, it’s easy to see why. Marseille can’t take this for granted though as another ‘Valenciennes’ performance would probably see Marseille returning home with no points. Ahead of a tough month with Europa league games along with domestic games against Lyon, Bordeaux, Lille and psg to come, OM need to continue their run of early season form, accruing as many points as possible with an almost full strength squad. The Valenciennes game should be fresh enough in the OM players memories to ensure there is no repeat of that performance and OM should win the game comfortably.

Predicted score: Troyes 0v3 Marseille  

Odds ( correct at time of publication)

Troyes 5.50

Draw 3.75

Marseille 1.62


Allez l’OM

Swanny (@MarseilleUK & @Andrew_Js3)


Other Ligue 1 games

Bordeaux 1v1 Lille

Psg 1-0 Reims

Rennes 2v1 Montpellier

Valenciennes 6v1 Lorient

Nice 1v1 Saint-Etienne

Nancy 1v1 Sochaux

Evian 0v4 Toulouse

Ajaccio v Bastia

Lyon v Brest

OM 2-2 PSG – Gignac vs Zlatan honours end even

Heading into what was arguably the most important El Classico fixture in years, Elie Baup opted to keep Loic Remy on the bench and start the injury prone Kassim Abdallah. This was a risky thing to do but one can only presume that his fitness levels were better than anticipated. There were no other surprises in the OM line-up as they prepared to do battle with their bitterest rivals.

All the goals came in the first half, but the scoreline masked the tight nature of the match. This was not a game full of many chances and as expected both sides were quite cautious, perhaps afraid to lose. Nevertheless, it didn’t prevent goals from being scored. The opening exchanges were fairly even, maybe OM had the slight edge. Gignac had already fired over the bar before emotionally giving OM the lead in the 17th minute. It was an excellent finish across the keeper and a massive goal for Gignac considering the circumstances.

Already, this seemed like it could be a potential repeat of last season’s fixture which OM won 3-0. In that game, PSG were also favourites but they completely bombed out under high expectations. Following VA’s 4-1 victory against OM the week before, a lot of people were predicting that Paris come to the south coast and inflict more misery on Le Phoceen, but so far it was the hosts who had the upper hand. PSG didn’t really play that well here and OM might well have gone on to win something like 2-0 or 3-0 had it not been for one man.

Sadly, PSG do have the best player in Ligue 1, perhaps even one of the best players in the world at their disposal. At times he is considered ‘lazy and selfish’ by some people, justifiably so in some instances. But there’s no doubt that when he’s ‘up for it’ and in the mood, there are few players better in the game than Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Here at Le Stade Velodrome he completely turned the game on its head in the space of 3 minutes by scoring a ‘ridiculous’ brace.

The equaliser was from a corner when he sent an insane backheeled volley into the roof of the net, Mandanda was powerless to resist. The OM custodian was then beaten from over 30 yards out just a couple of minutes later when Zlatan curled home a long range free kick into the bottom left corner. Perhaps you could argue that no keeper should be beaten from so far out, but there amount of curve and swerve on the ball was incredible. PSG were amazingly ahead and the Velodrome was silenced, the visitors were in the ascendancy.

Understandably, a lot of OM fans were in shock, but credit to the players because they didn’t let these two hammer blows affect them negatively. They got on with their football and tried to get back into the match, crucially an equaliser came before half time. From a corner, Gignac rose superbly to heads past Sirigu and the hitman grabbed his 2nd of the night. ‘Le Bigmac’ has been in excellent form this season but you sense he really came of age here even more, to score a brace on the biggest of stages and such a crucial time really does show what a changed player he is now.

The 1st half had been pretty tight and congested, despite what the scoreline suggested. After the break, the game really petered out into a damp squid and not much happened. Chances were few and far between, with PSG perhaps shading them. Kevin Gameiro wasted their best opportunity but blazed over the bar. Overall, a draw was the fair outcome here and a point can be considered a decent return for OM, especially after they found themselves 1-2 down. There are plenty of positives to be taken out of the game and Elie Baup’s men maintain their position at the top of the ligue 1 table.

Despite having easily the best side in the ligue on paper, after 8 games it certainly looks like PSG wont cakewalk the title as most people expected.

Goals & Highlights