Monthly Archives: February 2013

PSG 2-0 Marseille – Unlucky defeat in Paris ends title hopes for OM

OM dropped out of the title race as they suffered a defeat away against bitter rivals PSG on Sunday night (0-2). It was a flattering win for the hosts and OM outplayed their star studied opponents for most of the game. However, at this stage of the season its results that matter the most, and the visitors failed to deliver in this crucial department.

The night will be remembered mostly for the hype of David Beckham. He was on the bench for PSG and was almost assured of coming on at some point. The whole media frenzy surrounding Beckham was embarrassing to say the least. At any possible opportunity the cameras were showing him sitting on the bench. It was as if the match actually took 2nd stage compared to the old dinosaur that he is.

Lucky deflection for PSG

On the field, OM suffered the worst possible start when Lucas Moura’s shot was deflected into the net by N’Koulou. The effort was going well wide and it was a very fortunate goal for PSG, but they were ahead. The hosts enjoyed their best spell at the start of the game and were the better side for the first 20 mins or so. Lavezzi had hit the post as early as the 1st minute and they looked pretty dangerous going forwards on the counter attack.

Gradually, OM came back into the game more though and by halftime were certainly looking like the most likely side to score the next goal. Elie Baup’s side were exploiting plenty of space on the wings, but sadly none of the wide players could put in enough quality deliveries. Mathieu Valbuena was imperious in the middle of the park for OM and was arguably the best man on the field.

OM always looked vulnerable on the counter attack though and their defensive line was simply too high for most of the match, especially in the first half. Key players such as Mandanda and N’Koulou simply weren’t performing to their capabilities either. The latter arguably produced the worst 45 minutes he’s ever had in an OM shirt and he was simply shambolic before the interval. The own goal was unfortunate, but it rather summed him up in the first half.

2nd half domination, but all in vain

After the break, OM dominated proceedings and clearly outplayed PSG, but they couldn’t find a way to get back level. They ran into a complete brick wall in the form of Salvatore Sirigu who made several outstanding saves to keep his side in front. Gignac was twice denied superbly, although on the first of these occasions perhaps the ex Toulouse man should’ve tucked the ball away. Andre Ayew thought he’d scored late on thanks to a fine looping header, but at the last moment Sirigu managed to somehow claw the ball away. It was very frustrating for OM who definitely deserved to get back level and weren’t rewarded for their efforts.

Clearly at HT some things had been said in the dressing room and a number of players came out after the break looking distinctly better. N’Koulou looked at his imperious best again, Barton controlled the midfield and made a number of excellent passes. Valbuena maintained his level and was the heartbeat of the side going forward, whilst Andre Ayew battled really hard on the left hand side with purpose fight and determination. What OM lacked was that bit of extra quality, especially in the wide areas where they had chances to hurt PSG. The wingers and full backs just failed to deliver enough decent balls into the middle and PSG were usually able to clear easily from most crosses. Les Phoceens were also extremely wasteful from the number of set pieces they had, often from excellent positions.

PSG rubbed salt into the wound when Ibrahimovic grabbed a 2nd goal in stoppage time. It was far more than they deserved, especially in the case of Zlatan who had a very quiet game and gave OM few problems. All the talk and hype will be of David Beckham’s involvement in the goal after he came on in the 76th minute. Time will tell if he’ll be much use to PSG on the field, although nobody can deny he will certainly be an asset for them off it.

Title race over, despite good performance

Overall this was a harsh defeat for OM, but also a crucial one. This was probably their best display of 2013 so far, and certainly their most committed. But this match was never going to be about who played the best, the key was getting a result. At the end of the day, PSG have picked up the 3 points and managed to find a way to win. OM need to ask themselves why they allowed this to happen and to make sure in the future they learn from this loss. The title is now out of reach for Elie Baup’s men, but they still have everything to play for this season, starting with another fixture against PSG in the Coupe de France in midweek.

This defeat hurts a lot, largely because it was undeserved. What OM need to do is bottle up this pain and disappointment, and make sure they use it as a positive for the future. They have to learn from this loss and next time make sure they don’t suffer the same outcome.

Come back stronger

To quote the great NFL linebacker Ray Lewis who made this inspirational speech following the Ravens’ emotional AFC Championship loss against the New England Patriots in Jan 2012

“We’ve got to come back and go to work, to make sure we finish it next time. This right here makes us stronger. Let’s understand who we are as a team. Let’s understand who we are as men. And let’s make somebody smile when we walk out of here. We’ve got the opportunity to keep going, men. Let’s be stronger as a team, man. Let’s be who we are.”

This was one of the great speeches I heard, and it worked. The following year the Ravens returned and went onto win the Superbowl. OM need this sort of spirit now and to come back stronger.

OM player ratings

Mandanda 4/10 – Lacked communication and authority at times.

Fanni 5/10 – Provided energy and drive, but his final ball and crosses were poor.

N’Koulou 4/10 – Complete Jekyll and Hyde performance. He was awful before HT, but excellent after it.

Mendes 4/10 – Without being too bad, he was never particularly convincing.

Morel 4/10 – Got into some good wide positions but wasted opportunities

Barton 7/10 -After a fairly quiet first half, he controlled the midfield after the break and became a key player.

Romao 4/10 – Had a match riddled with errors in the 2nd half especially, didn’t particularly shine.

Andre Ayew 6/10 – Fought very hard for the cause and was unlucky not to score

Kadir 5/10 – Not too bad, but one senses he is still settling in at OM and there is more to come from him.

Valbuena 8/10 – He was superb and the heartbeat of the side. Passed the ball beautifully and always a threat.

Gignac 4/10 – Should’ve scored at least once and really needs to hit the back of the net in fixtures like this.

Le Classique part 3 – psg v Marseille – 24/02/13 – Match Preview

psg  v OM

Sun 24/02/13 – 20:00 (UK – Live on ESPN Classic)

Parc des Princes, Paris

Ref. – Fredy Fautrel

Background –

Had this game been scheduled to take place last weekend the result may have been a forgone conclusion in most people’s eyes. Having only won one of 5 games since the winter break, Marseille’s unlikely title challenge looked to be over as they sat 8 points away from the seemingly unstoppable PSG, who had not suffered defeat since the beginning of December. But a late winner from Rod Fanni for OM and a shock defeat for PSG at the hands of relegation threatened Sochaux has seemingly seen the Ligue 1 title race thrown back open. A win for Marseille would put them within 2 points of PSG, who could be equalled on points by Lyon too. The 3rd classique of the season and perhaps the most important.

Marseille –

After struggling for consistent form since the winter break the last minute win over Valenciennes may give Marseille a much needed confidence boost ahead of Sunday’s game against psg. Lacking their usual clinical finishing, Marseille squandered a number of good chances in a game that ultimately sounded a great deal closer than it actually was. It is unlikely that psg will concede the number of chances they offered to Sochaux to another team, so Gignac and co best make sure they have packed their shooting boots for the trip to the capital.

Elie Baup is without the services of Jordan Ayew (suspension), Morgan Amalfitano (injury) and Benoit Cheyrou (thigh injury), but can welcome back Kassim Abdallah to bolster his substitution and defensive options. Other than this he has a full strength squad at his disposal. The full squad thathas travelled to Paris is made up of: Mandanda, Samba, Fanni, Abdallah, Diawara, Nkoulou, Mendes, Morel, Aloe, Romao, Barton, Abdullah, Valbuena, A. Ayew, Kadir, Gignac, Sougou and Anani. Having impressed in games so far Romao and Kadir will be likely to keep their places hoping to continue to improve their understanding of each other and team mates even further.

Likely starting lineup:
OM v psg

Who are they? –

First are the thoughts of psg fan Ross Mackiewicz (Follow on twitter @RossMackiewicz) –
‘Putting the rivalry aside, this is an exciting time for both clubs as we embark on the start of a double-bill in the league and cup. It really is a treat for fans of French football in general and one they should relish. From a Parisien perspective we need to bounce back after – I would say – our worst performance of the season away to Sochaux last weekend. You could tell the midweek game in Valencia had taken its toll and we looked a shell of the team that played some exhilarating football on that night. Pressure is on us though, a win for OM will put them three points off us and that will certainly put them well and truly back in the title hunt. It is a defining one for both clubs in truth. A win for either will have implications and Lyon will be watching with interest also. I just hope the possible debut of David Beckham does not make any minds wander in the PSG dressing room and attention is solely fixated on the job in hand. Marseille will be hoping otherwise of course. May the best team win!’

Having overcome media-spun crisis after crisis this season after the odd poor result, Marseille take on psg amid full flow of the Beckham driven media circus as the ‘angel’ of English football looks set to make his psg debut at some point on Sunday. As many have eluded to, Beckham offers any club a number of things; experience, class, skill; however, it is difficult to see what he adds to the current psg first team that any other player wouldn’t offer with a little more pace and exuberance.

Confirmed absentees for Carlo Ancelotti are Thiago Motta, Thiago Silva and Mamadou Sakho. These leave psg a little short at the back with the likely centre back pairing of Armand and Alex lacking in pace.

The main danger psg still possess comes in the form of Ibra. Although it is unlikely that OM will have improved their defensive discipline in the space of a week, the quality of Ibra will not have been lost on Nkoulou and Mandanda since their encounter at the Velodrome in October. His awareness allowed him to beat Nkoulou to the ball to stab home his opening goal, and his power drove home his second direct from a free kick that (if you were harsh you would say) the wall should have blocked or Mandanda could have got a hand to. As shown a number of times though Ibra is as susceptible as our own Joey Barton to allowing the ‘red mist’ to descend. Perhaps as Ibra drops deep it may be Barton who gets close to him and works some of his ‘British charm’ on the big guy in order to try and throw him off his game. It would be a poor decision if this was the only plan that Baup had so thankfully there are a few other areas that OM can look to exploit.

As Sochaux demonstrated last week, psg are often vulnerable to counter attacks (this was how Gignac netted his first at the Velodrome). Sochaux also demonstrated psg’s defensive frailties through awareness of positions and movement. The space afforded to them in the psg box when players drifted wide and then attacked through the centre was hauntingly familiar to the way OM have been attacked in the past.

As MarseilleUK’s Steve eluded to in his statistical preview of this game for Just Football, psg have not picked up the results type of results they would like against sides currently in Ligue 1’s top 10. Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux, and perhaps surprisingly, Lorient have all picked up more points per game against the current top 10 than psg. This perhaps gives OM a slight edge in performance tables, however, given the home advantage and current general form it woulod be foolish to suggest that psg have anything but the upper hand.

 

Summary –

For the benefit of the Ligue I hope for what would be considered a shock Marseille win. To have potentially only 2 points separating the top 3 teams with 12 games remaining would be a fantastic advertisement for French football. This would make it more competitive than any of the other ‘top’ leagues in Europe (Points separating Top 3 teams: Germany – 16; Spain – 16; England – 16; Italy – 11).

Above all though, a competitive match would be requested. Along with the minimal points separating the top teams, we need some of the top matches to provide a ‘wow’ factor. Most of you reading this, will be reading it because of your love of French football and the Ligue in general. Like me, you will seek out match reports, read reviews and watch highlights of the dullest 0-0 draws, just because you love the ligue. Unfortunately ESPN have opted to show the Milan derby and I can understand their choice. But I would love have the satisfaction that we all watched our dodgy internet streams for a game that had more depending on it, and was more entertaining than Gladbach v Dortmund, Man City v Chelsea, Inter v AC, Barca v Sivilla and Athletico Madrid v Espanyol combined!

Predicted score: psg 1v2 Marseille (hopeful, but what the hell!)

Odds (Bet365.com correct at time of publication)

psg 1.50

Draw 3.80

Marseille 7.50

Other Ligue 1 games

Nice 2-0 Reims

Rennes 2v2 Sochaux

Ajaccio 1v3 Lille

Evian 0v1 Montpellier

Nancy 0v3 Saint-Etienne

Valenciennes 0v0 Toulouse

Lyon v Lorient

Bordeaux v Brest

Allez l’OM

Swanny (@MarseilleUK & @Andrew_Js3)

OM 1-0 Valenciennes – Fanni comes good for OM with huge climactic ending

It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t nice and it certainly wasn’t a particularly encouraging performance by OM. But they managed to pick up the 3 points thanks to a last gasp Rod Fanni goal, which many people will say was underserved. At the end of the day, you will take a victory any day of the week, but OM have much work to do if they are to rejuvenate themselves as a title contender or even a top 3 contender.

OM came into the match on the back of a 3 game winless streak, but on the face of things this seemed like the perfect opportunity to regain some form. Valenciennes weren’t exactly a team in particularly good knick themselves having obtained just 7 points from their last 8 ligue games. They also possess one of the worst away records in the ligue and were suffering from a few injury problems, the most notable to stud centre back Isimat Mirin.

Yes, this is a fixture which means a lot to Valenciennes, dating all the way back to match fixing scandals of the mid 1990s.But realistically OM would’ve expected to win this one fairly comfortably. Cheyrou, Jordan Ayew and Abdallah were all missing, but on paper the XI that took to the field should’ve claimed the 3 points with ease.

OM struggle in offence

It was anything but that though as OM struggled to break down VA all night and in general failed to create many chances of note. Possession wasn’t a problem for the hosts, but they just couldn’t slice through a defence which isn’t renowned for being the most solid in the ligue, especially without its main man Isimat. For the south coast side Romao and Kadir were given starts, whilst Mendes maintained his position in central defence. The encouraging thing for OM was that they looked fairly dangerous out wide. The full backs Morel and Fanni especially caught the eye by making some nice runs and putting in some teasing crosses.

OM were also extremely untroubled at the back in the first half and Valenciennes struggled to even muster an attempt on goal. But in the middle of the park OM were lacking spark and creativity, they just weren’t applying the pressure enough and the visitors would’ve always felt fairly assured that they wouldn’t concede.

Fanni delight at the death

The 2nd half was pretty much the same, OM controlled possession but failed to really create too much. Valenciennes actually looked more threatening too and managed to win a few set pieces, which is always a dangerous situation for OM. However, the hosts defended them much better in this match, which has to be a major positive. The match was heading towards a 0-0 draw but Elie Baup’s side struck a dramatic last gasp winner to send the Velodrome wild. In the 4th and final minute of stoppage time Jeremy Morel sent an excellent ball into the middle and Rod Fanni, who ran from a deep position, fought hard to scramble the ball into the net and win OM the game.

Fanni had minutes earlier missed OM’s best chance of the night when he put a shot wide as he was unmarked at the back post, however, the ex Rennes man made no mistake this time and his strike was effectively the last kick of the match. OM hadn’t played well but managed to pick up the 3 points. Yet again, a late goal has saved them this season and at least they can now go into next week’s Classico with a victory under their belt. With PSG likely to enter that contest 8pts clear, I think its fair to say a win at the Parc de Princes is essential in order to retain any lingering title ambitions.
OM player ratings

Mandanda 5/10 – Composed and assured when called upon, but he had little to do in this match.

Fanni 8/10 – Head and shoulders above anyone else on the field here and easily MOM. Was always the most dangerous OM player and came up with the crucial goal at the end.

Morel 6/10 – Lively and looked quite dangerous at times here. Put in a few good crosses and supplied the crucial ball which led to the winner.

Mendes 5/10 – Solid without being spectacular. He would’ve appreciated not being tested much here.

N’Koulou 6/10 – Very solid and put together a few nice passes which set up attacks.

Kadir 5/10 – Didn’t do too badly but struggled to get into the game a bit and faded in the 2nd half before being subbed off.

Barton 4/10 – Struggled here and just wasn’t his usual self. Got booked and was eventually subbed off. He failed to take control of the midfield.

Romao 5/10 – Solid enough without being spectacular, mopped up balls well.

Valbuena 5/10 – Got more into the game in the 2nd half, but before the break he struggled a lot.

A Ayew 5/10 – His dink pass proved crucial in giving the ball to Morel for the goal, but overall it was a fairly quiet afternoon for the Ghanaian.

Gignac 4/10 – Not really his day and nothing seemed to fall to him properly.

Evian v Marseille – Match Preview – 10/02/13

ETG v OM Preview

Sun 10/02/13 – 13:00 (UK)

Parc des Sports d’Annecy, Evian

Ref. – Antony Gautier

Background –

After suffering a shock home defeat to bottom club AS Nancy last week, Marsreille will be looking to show a little more bottle this week against the team sitting 16th, Evian Thonon Gaillard. The shock defeat added to the surprise defeats OM have suffered at the hands of Troyes and Sochaux this season and meant that they missed the opportunity to go level on points with Lyon, and lost ground on Ligue leaders psg. Evian have so far failed to win in 2013 but have drawn 3 in a row against Lyon, Ajaccio and Bastia allowing them to climb out of the relegation zone.

Marseille –

Away from the pressures of the Velodrome, Marseille have fared better on the road this season, and will look to continue that form as they try to win at Evian for the first time. Last season ex-Marseille man Jerome Leroy scored twice as OM’s mid-season run of form took a dip.

Charles Kabore is still absent on international duty as his Burkina Faso face Nigeria in the African Cup of Nations in South Africa on Sunday. Joey Barton will miss the game through suspension after his red card against Nancy last week and more surprisingly Andre Ayew withdrew late from the squad. Foued Kadir came off the bench against Nancy, and will be pushing for a starting place this week. New signing Alaixys Ramao, from FC Lorient, is also available for selection after returning from the ACon with Togo. Jeremy Morel and Nikolas Nkoulou have been receiving treatment on their respective injuries this week and are still doubts for this game.

The full travelling squad is made up of: Mandanda, Samba, Fanni, Abdallah, Nkoulou, Mendes, Diawara, Aloe, Cheyrou, Romao, Abdullah, Valbuena, Amalfitano, Kadir, J. Ayew, Gignac, Sougou & Jobello.

Possible line up: 4-2-3-1
Mandanda
Fanni, Nkoulou, Diawara, Mendes
Abdullah, Cheyrou
Romao, Valbuena J. Ayew
Gignac

Who are they? –

After promotion from Ligue 2, Evian managed a more than respectable 9th placed finish last season (1 place and 2 points ahead of OM). Their hard working mentality and often exciting counter-attacking play meant they were a difficult team to beat, and although they have not managed to quite match this form and play as much this season, this will be no walk in the park for OM.

Evian’s home record makes worrying reading for ETG fans picking only 2 victories (against Bastia 3-0 and Troyes 2-0). Their specialism for draws(5 at home) is only beaten by Bordeaux who have drawn 6 times at home, so a draw could be a good bet.

Pacal Dupraz will be without Mohamed Rabiu and Jon Mensah who are still on ACoN duties. Brice Dja Djedje and Stephen Anderson who are injured, however, Barbosa is expected to recover in time to play.

Marseille will need to be wary of the ETG counter-attack. This is something that they showed immense vulnerability to against Nancy, and were only let off by ASNL’s rather wayward shooting. With 8 goals between them, Barbosa and Sagbo may not be as forgiving as Apou’o was ;ast Sunday.

Likely starting line-up: (4-4-1-1)Laquait – Mongongu, Angoula, Betao, Wass – Berigaud, Sorlin, Bi, Barbosa – Khelifa – Sagbo

Summary –

Before the winter break this game should have been relatively straightforward for Marseille, however, with a string of inconsistent results and performances it becomes a must win game for both teams. A win for OM keeps them close enough to the top 2 and also keeps them away from 4th placed Bordeaux who have closed to within 4 points of OM. A win for Evian could take them 5 points clear of the drop zone if results go their way.

Predicted score: Evian 1v2 Marseille

Odds (Bet365.com correct at time of publication)

Evian 3.50

Draw 3.20

Marseille 2.15

Allez l’OM

Swanny (@MarseilleUK & @Andrew_Js3)

Other Ligue 1 Fixtures:

psg 3-1 Bastia

Saint-Etienne 4v1 Montpellier

Nice 1v1 Lorient

Valenciennes 2v1 Brest

Troyes 0v0 Sochaux

Ajaccio 1v0 Bordeuax

Nancy 1v2 Reims

Rennes v Toulouse

Lyon v Lille

Marseille v Nancy – Match Preview 03/02/13

Marseille v Nancy

Sun 03/02/13 – 20:00 (UK)

Stade Velodrome, Marseille

Ref – Rene Sucarrat

OM v ASNL Preview

Background –

Having dropped 3 points off the pace at the top of Ligue 1 last weekend, Marseille face bottom of the table AS Nancy this weekend in a must win game for both sides. After Mandanda’s last minute blunder allowed Rennes to clinch a draw OM found themselves 3 points away from the top spot, and although they have been in this potion before there is the worry that it will be too difficult to keep up the pace with Lyon and psg now. However, with the encouraging performance from Modou Sougou (CFR Cluj) in the Coupe de France victory over Rouen midweek, along with forthcoming debuts for Foued Kadir (VAFC) and Jacques-Alaixys Romao (FCL), there is hope that the new signings will give the squad and extra push going into the second half of the season.

Nancy managed only their second win of the season last weekend against FC Lorient, their only other win coming in week 1 over Brest.  Nancy have found themselves in the relegation zone since week 6 and have propped up the rest of the table since week 9. There is a concern that with the January departures of club captain Andre Luiz (LOSC), Yohan Mollo (ASSE), Massadio Haidara (NUFC), Helder (Internacional) and Zenke (Istanbul BB) that Nancy are already preparing themselves for Ligue 2 next season.

Marseille –

Elie Baup is without Charles Kabore (Burkina Faso) and Jacques Alaixys Romao (Togo) who are all still competing at the African Cup of Nations.

After a very encouraging performance midweek Modou Sougou could be in line for his Ligue 1 debut, but I would expect this to be from the subs bench in the second half.

Team news: The hip injury that ruled out Morel from the win over Rouen will keep him from this game too, meaning Morel misses his first Ligue 1 game of the season. New signing Foued Kadir has been included in the squad so the fans at the Velodrome will hope to catch sight of him at some point too.

Full squad: Mandanda, Samba, Fanni, Abdallah, Nkoulou, Diawara, Mendes, Aloe, Barton, Cheyrou, Abdullah, Amalfitano, Valbuena, A. Ayew, Kadir, J. Ayew, Gignac and Sougou.

Probable starting line up and formation:

4-2-3-1: Mandanda – Fanni, Diawara, Nkoulou, Mendes – Barton, Cheyrou – J. Ayew, Valbuena, A. Ayew – Gignac

 

Nancy –

Nancy are currently bottom of Ligue 1 where they have spent most of the season. The Nancy board decided that they may fair better with another coach and parted ways with Jean Fernandez who had been in charge for 18 months. Patrick Gabriel has been named interim coach for Nancy and has mustered up a draw (1-1 LOSC), a loss (1-2 TFC) and a win (2-1 FCL) in his short time in charge.

As was the last time these teams met out one to watch is Sebastien Puygrenier. The experienced centre back has pulled out a number of good performance this season despite what the results may suggest. He has also contributed 3 goals, one of which claimed the win over Lorient last week. Puygrenier will be a major threat from set-pieces and I would expect Patrick Gabriel will encourage Nancy to win as many free-kicks and corners as possible once in Marseille’s half.

Marseille simply must begin to defend correctly from set-pieces, and they are sure to be tested by Nancy in this department. There continually seems like there is a lack of communication defensively during set-pieces and too many goals have been conceded where opposition players have lost markers, have got to the ball too easily, or the ball has dropped and our opponents are quickest to react. As the team captian, I would hope that Mandanda takes more responsibility for this, however as the senior and preferred defender, Nkoulou should also be commanding the defensive area far better than what he is at present.

Summary –

Top 3 team takes on team who have spent most of the season at the bottom of the pile. Should be an obvious outcome, but them this is Marseille. We don’t do things the easy or obvious way. If we weren’t so awful at defending set-pieces I would feel a great deal more confident going into the match, however, as proven against Rouen again, our frailties from these situation change a comfortable looking win into a team hanging on for a draw. The mentality of the players seems to change and they transform into a bundle of nerves, just like the fans, and seems to then concede even more corners and free-kicks. By rights, Marseille should win this game, and because of this it may be a better indication of just how the rest of the season may pan out for OM. Approach it with the right mentality and we should win, fail to do that and another upset could be on the cards.

Betting odds (from Bet365.com correct at time of publication)

Marseille: 1.44

Draw: 4.20

Nancy: 7.50

Other Ligue 1 games:

Toulouse 0-4 psg

Lorient 2v2 Rennes

Bastia 0v0 Evian

Brest 0v2 Nice

Lille 1v1 Troyes

Sochaux 1v2 Saint-Etienne

Bordeaux 2v0 Valenciennes

Ajaccio v Lyon

Montpellier v Reims

Allez l’OM (Swanny @MarseilleUK)