Disappointment, anger, frustration, annoyance. Those, just some of the feelings OM fans would’ve been feeling after their 1-2 defeat at home to Monaco. Supposedly, there is now a ‘big 3’ in Ligue 1 and OM have been included in that trio. Here was a chance facing a direct championship rival to lay down a marker and prove that they were legitimate contenders. 1-0 up at HT, things were looking great, but a 2nd half riddled with defensive mistakes was to cost Elie Baup’s men dearly. In some ways, this was actually Marseille’s best performance of the season, for sure there were a handful of positives. But as was said beforehand, any defensive mistakes would NOT go unpunished by a side like Monaco, and that was the case.
Good first half and Mendes goal
Jeremy Morel’s injury meant that Benjamin Mendy had to start at left back. He struggled all night and looked out of his depth facing the likes of Ocampos, Carrasco and Fabinho. OM were dealt another injury blow early on when Diawara was forced off. Lucas Mendes took over to make his first appearance of the season. Monaco had the first major chance when Fabinho slid a shot wide, but OM were generally the better side. The likes of Imbula, Ayew and Valvuena all started impressively and the hosts were having some joy on both wings. The atmosphere at the Velodrome was intense, you really knew that this was a crunch match between potential title rivals.
OM kept knocking on the door without reward. Andre Ayew was especially impressive and it was he who came closest by grazing the post. At the other end, Monaco had occasional moments where they looked dangerous, but in general OM defended fairly well in the 1st half. Elie Baup’s men were rewarded for their efforts just before the interval when Lucas Mendes headed home from a corner. The Velodrome went wild and fans were really happy at halftime. It had been a very satisfying period, topped off by converting dominance into a goal. But things were to change dramatically after the break…..
2nd half slump as Monaco take control
For those who doubt Monaco’s ‘team ethics’ or Claudio Ranieri’s motivational skills then they only need take a look at the 2nd half here to be proved wrong. I don’t know what was said in the Monaco dressing room but their players came out with a clear point to prove and were very motivated. They camped themselves constantly in the OM half at the start of the period and the pressure eventually paid off when Falcao scored. Mendes and Nkoulou were out of position as the Columbian couldn’t miss from only a few yards out. All of that hard work which Marseille had put into the game was undone by this awful passage of play just after HT.
To be fair, OM did respond well after conceding an equaliser. They put a lot of effort into try and get back ahead and were unlucky not to score again. Gignac and Valbuena both had chances but the closest the hosts came was through Andre Ayew who hit the post. The difference in this 2nd half was that Monaco were far more dangerous though and seemed to grow in strength as the half went on. A key moment in the game was Falcao getting injured around the 70 minute mark. I’m sure many OM fans breathed a sigh of relief when the Colombian hitman left the field, but unfortunately his departure was to benefit the visitors. In-form man Emmanuel Riviere came on and he looked really good in the last 20 mins. He should’ve given Monaco the lead within minutes of his arrival but Steve Mandanda made an excellent save at his feet. The OM custodian had been forced to deny Carrasco not too long before and suddenly France’s number 2 had become a very busy man.
At the worst stage of the game, OM were faltering. Monaco’s extra pace in attack was causing them problems and the defence was getting tired. Lucas Mendes showed heavy legs and Nkoulou seemed all over the place. Monaco took the lead with 10 mins left through Riviere. Joao Moutinho supplied the assist and Riviere found himself clear of the backline. This time he made no mistake and converted easily past Mandanda. Sadly, OM had no response after this and looked clueless. They failed to create a single meaningful equalising opportunity and the visitors held on pretty comfortably. Overall, it was a very disappointing end to a match which had initially promised so much……………
Things I liked:-
Andre Ayew. He produced one of his best performances for quite some time here and deserved at least a goal for his efforts. The Ghanaian played primarily both on the left & right wing but he seemed to pop up almost everywhere on the field! There has been some talk that this could be his last ever game for OM. If this is true then he went out in style.
Player commitment. OK, so there were some poor performances within the OM side but I liked the fight and commitment shown by everyone in this match. Sometimes there are guys out there who look lazy and not up for it, but in all fairness nobody seemed to be acting that way in this fixture.
The Velodrome atmosphere. With one side of the stadium not even in action, a full house of 48,000 watched this match and there was an electric atmosphere within the ground. I can’t wait for The Velodrome to be fully finished because its going to generate one hell of a noise.
Things I didn’t like:-
The defence. I exclude Rod Fanni from this because I believe he was fairly respectable here. But Nicolas Nkoulou looks completely out of sorts this season, He’s making stupid errors and every goal OM have conceded this year he’s had at least partial responsibility. He needs to sort it out, and quickly. Lucas Mendes scored here but looks unfit, and whilst I’ve no doubt that Benjamin Mendy can become a star player for us, he looked very very uncomfortable in this game.
Payet and Gignac. I have previously talked about the Payet – Valbuena – Gignac triangle. Well, it was completely non existent in this game. Valbuena was forced to carry the can himself along with Andre Ayew. It’s a worry that Payet was totally invisible in a match of this magnitude. Gignac wasn’t as bad but struggled to get into the game much.
Elie Baup’s coaching. I wasn’t impressed by him here and he was outcoached by Ranieri. Whatever was said at HT it didn’t work and OM were slow out of the blocks, costing them dearly. By about the 65th minute it was obvious Monaco were starting to gain the upper hand but Baup didn’t make any subs to try and change the game. He waited until Monaco had scored before bringing on Khelifa, but by then it was too late. Payer was clearly ineffective so why keep him on so long? Baup sadly had no answer to Monaco’s improved 2nd half display.
Player ratings (out of 10). Mandanda 6, Fanni 6, Nkoulou 3, Mendes 4, Mendy 3, Romao 4, Imbula 5, Payet 2, Valbuena 6, Andre Ayew 7, Gignac 3.