At the end of the season, one can often look back upon defining moments which proved crucial to either the success or downfall of a side. Its quite possible that Andre Pierre Gignac’s goal in stoppage time here might prove to be one of those defining occasions for OM. It was a match in which they were generally far from their best and even at one stage seemingly down and out. However, they managed to come back to effectively steal 3 points thanks to a couple of late goals. At the end of the day, its results that matter not performances.
Strong wind affected this whole game at Le Stade Velodrome. Conditions were tricky for the players in that respect, but the pitch played fairly well. Overall, it was a game of fairly few chances, although not a defence orientated fixture. OM took the lead in the 13th minute thanks to an Andre Ayew header. Barton provided the assist, although quite how the linesman didn’t spot an offside was remarkable. OM definitely had some luck with this goal, but few inside the stadium were complaining.
Montpellier back in it, and defensive woes
The groans wouldn’t be too far away though when Herrera equalised not long afterwards. Credit must be given to the Montpellier striker for timing his run perfectly before rounding the ball past Mandanda into the net. However, from OMs point of view both N’Koulou and Mendes’ positioning was questionable, whilst Rod Fanni allowed the ball to be played through when he could’ve perhaps done better.
OM’s problems from corners nearly came back to haunt them half way through the first half. Romain Pitau shot just wide, the issue was a poorly cleared header by Andre Ayew. The Ghanaian wasn’t too far away from making it 2-1 just 10 minutes later though when he fizzed a shot just wide of the post. The main problem was that OM weren’t creating enough chances. Only Joey Barton and Andree Ayew were looking lively enough in attack, whilst the defence was looking worryingly error prone.
Visitors ahead and OM heads drop
After the break, more problems at the back nearly let in Montpellier, but fortunately Camara blazed over. The central defensive partnership of Mendes and N’Koulou just didn’t work all night. Both seemed to be out of position all too often and there was an apparent communication issue as well. Add into the mixer Jeremy Morel’s usual hit and miss display, in addition to Rod Fanni only having an average night and OM definitely had some big problems at the back. Montpellier broke clear following a corner and took the lead thanks to John Utaka. The whole defence was pretty much at fault for the goal, but Mendes and N’Koulou will once again take the brunt of the criticism.
What followed after this was a 25 minute period in which OM looked like a beaten side. Body language wasn’t good, passes were being misplaced and errors were being made all over the field. Montpellier really had a chance to put OM to the sword here, but they failed to do this or even create that many chances. It just didn’t feel like OM were going to get back into the match, but somehow they found the mental resolve to draw level. Gignac slid the ball nicely to Andre, he crossed and Jordan was there to slide the ball home in the middle. It might not have been deserved but the hosts had found a way to make it 2-2. Now it was a different ball game and Elie Baup’s men had their mojo back.
Late drama and sensational tunaround
The final 10 minutes were all OM domination and Montpellier were the side who seemed rattled. There was more intensity, fire, energy and belief from the hosts, they seemed desperate to find a winning goal. Sometimes they were guilty of trying too hard, or trying to be too fancy when all they needed to do was to play a simple game. But into stoppage time OM were given a lifeline by Daniel Congre who inexplicably tried a ridiculous fancy clearance which hit Gignac. The ball fell favourably but the hitman still had to finish from an angle. He hit the ball perfectly into the corner of the net and punished Montpellier for their mistake.
This was a seriously clutch finish. Gignac had hardly had a chance all night, but when this one big occasion came his way, he made sure not to miss. OM had somehow managed to turn this match on its head out of nowhere. They had generally played poorly, but managed to find a way to get the 3 points. There is an old saying about teams who have the habit of doing this……….
Player ratings and notes :-
Mandanda 4/10 – Can’t be blamed for any of the goals, but his overall performance was fairly shaky. Only really made one good save in the whole match.
Fanni 4/10 – The best of the defenders, but he only played to an average level. Contributed more in attack than he did against Sochaux, which was pleasing to see.
N’Koulou 2/10 – This has to be his worst performance of the season by a long way. He was terrible here and can be partially blamed for both goals, in addition to making errors which could’ve cost more. Whether or not Mendes dragged him down or not I’m not sure, but he didn’t have a good game.
Mendes 2/10 – He played slightly worse than N’Koulou and many will blame him for the Cameroonian’s poor display. Mendes was just caught out of position too much or misplaced too many passes. Not an encouraging display and id be surprised if he keeps his place in the team after this.
Morel 3/10 – Yet again below par and made some sloppy mistakes. Failed to contribute much in attack either.
Cheyrou 3/10 – Quite rightly subbed off after about an hour. He didn’t do much all day really. Never got into the game and whilst he didn’t cost OM with anything, much more is needed from a central midfielder.
Barton 7/10 – OMs best player in the first half, he ran out of steam a bit after the break. His passing was sharp, tackling and energy levels were also impressive. Provided another assist and raised his level after a disappointing display against Sochaux.
Valbuena 5/10 – Wasn’t in the game in the first half but improved after the break. He wasn’t special or anything here, but he stringed together a few nice moves and his pass late on was crucial for the winning goal.
Jordan Ayew 5/10 – Played as a right winger for an hour and clearly this isn’t his best position. Central striker is where he is more at home and he showed his predatory instincts by equalising.
Andre Ayew 8/10 – OM’s best player here and MOM. Scored a goal, assisted another and generally had an excellent game in which he made a real difference. I’ve been waiting for him to finally stand up and be counted this season, this was a step in the right direction.
Gignac 7/10 – Not as influential as normal, but has to be given enormous credit for scoring the winning goal right at the end. That goal could prove to be massive in the context of OMs season.