Sun 17th August – 16:00
Marseille 0v2 Montpellier
Stade Velodrome, Marseille – Att. 50, 774
The expected carnival atmosphere for Bielsa’s arrival and the reopening of the Velodrome was quickly ended as a poor performance gifted Montpellier a 0-2 win over Marseille. 2 goals from poor defending, were the main talking points, when the most action the Montpellier defenders had was when they were replacing chunks of the Velodrome turf.
Romao Nkoulou Morel
Dja Djedje Ayew Mendy
Thauvin Gignac Alessandrini
Subs: Samba, Abergel, Sparagna, Batshuayi (63 >Dja Djedje), Payet (52 > Ayew), Porsan-Clemente (75 >Thauvin)
Despite the impressive grandeur of the refurbished Velodrome and expected raucus and optimistic atmosphere, OM never really got going, the occasion seemingly getting to a number of the players particularly those with defensive responsibilities.
Montpellier were lively from the off, pressing quickly and high up the field, leaving the OM defence exposed. The warning signs were there from the off, as a Dje Djedje mistake allowed Montpellier in, only for Mandanda to spare the defenders blushes with a good save. Minutes later there was nothing that Mandanda could do to stop a great finish from Mounier.
After dispossessing OM in midfield, Mounier was played through with acres of space down the OM right side, and he dinked a beautiful lob of Mandanda into the far post leaving the big man with no chance stuck in no-mans-land. This immediately led to some unrest among the Velodrome faithful, who were already concerned at the lack of composure and assertiveness the OM team were playing with.
As the half progresses, OM still struggled to create any clear chances. The closest opportunity came amongst a huge scramble in the Montpellier area as 3 shots were blocked in quick succession by a combination of desperate defending and solid goalkeeping from Jourdren. In the aftermath, Ayew was receiving treatment for a head injury, meanwhile the Montpellier defenders acted as ground-keepers replacing huge chunks of turf that had came up during the melee.
To be honest the state of the playing surface was almost as embarrassing as the OM performance. It will be interesting to see what Bielsa makes of the situation, and how quickly the pitch can be repaired and the problem rectified. The pitch will see far less sunlight than it has in previous years with the full roof being complete, while the turf looked very thin as it tore up. Anyway, I am in no way horticulturally educated, but it didn’t look good!
Many would like to have been a fly on the wall at half time to see Bielsa’s reaction to a tepid 1st half display, but whatever improvements he hoped for, really failed to materialise. OM still had difficulties breaking down the Montpellier midfield and defence, who defended in a 4-5-1 formation and then attacked well on the counter. Thauvin, Alessandrini and Ayew struggled to provide Gignac with any real service and as a result APG was very isolated. The same defensive issues that had dogged OM in the first half, were evident still too.
Montpellier’s second goal came from a break down the left and while Morel dropped to the centre, Sanson was free at the back post to pass the ball into an empty net. Imbula and the 2 wing-backs Mendy and Dja Djedje were left too far up the pitch and simply couldn’t track back in time to support the back 3.
Very little changed between that 68th minute goal and the end of the match, save for appearances from Batshuayi and Porsan-Clemente who struggled to get a foothold on the game the way they had in friendlies as the game ended 0-2.
What will be clear to Bielsa, if it wasn’t already, is that he needs some defensive investment. Although the collective of Romao, Sparagna, Nkoulou, Morel (and Mendes) have all done ok through the friendlies, the have struggled back in ligue action. There is also a lack of clear leadership amongst the whole squad, which isn’t a huge problem if the whole team knows their roles and responsibilities but a number of the players looked embarrassingly clueless in this game. I’d expect some hard training sessions this week ahead of next Saturday’s trip to Guingamp.
Bielsa’s reaction (from ligue1.com):
“The result was not the one we wanted but the game leaves much for us to work on. At first we were just as good as our opponents and then in the later stages of the first half I think we were better than them and we had chances. I believe the formation had no influence. The centre-back worked well but there were difficulties out wide. Perhaps when Romao moved to the right-hand side it looked like there was a problem but he was there because there was a lot of space to cover. Ayew is no stranger to playing as a second striker. I am aware, though, that any changes must be accompanied by results in order to progress. I’m not satisfied. Losing to a team who could finish in the bottom half of the table is not a great result. After winning one point from a possible six the media claim the players are uncomfortable with the new methods, but there is nothing new. Only two or three players played poorly tonight.”
Ligue 1 Results:
Caen 0-1 Lille
psg 2-0 Bastia
Lens 0-1 Guingamp
Lorient 0-0 Nice
Metz 1-1 Nantes
Rennes 6-2 Evian
Toulouse 2-1 Lyon
Saint-Etienne 3-1 Reims
Bordeaux 4-1 Monaco