Olympique de Marseille, a solid runner-up to Paris SG – which remains the last team to beat it in the league more than two months ago – got off to a good start on Friday 10 January for its second half of the season. OM went on to win on the wire with their direct pursuer, Rennes, at the opening of the 20th day of the Ligue 1 championship.
The Marseillais, who have garnered 25 points out of the 27 possible in the last nine days, continue their good series of undefeated matches, and end that of five victories for Rennais, now relegated to eight points from second place but with a late match to play Wednesday in Nîmes.
"For us it is a very good result, with the distance we take from our opponents. We are in a position of control, everything depends on us. We have to continue like this ", said Portuguese OM coach Andre Villas-Boas after this important victory.
A harsh and tense shock
"It was a big fight, with a lot of intensity", said Rennes coach Julien Stéphan, who however regretted that his players had failed, like last week against Amiens in the French Cup, to materialize their opportunities.
The two teams have however left a few feathers, since Marseille will have three suspended players (Sarr, Kamara and Payet) against Angers in two weeks, and Rennes has seen its nugget Eduardo Camavinga hobbling out after two shocks.
The clash between the two fit teams of the moment kept all its promises in terms of spectacle, with bitter duels and a series of occasions on both sides, in front of nearly 30,000 spectators – including several hundred very Marseillais noisy – in a packed Roazhon Park.
The match started at a high pace, with openings on both sides, although the real opportunities remained rare. On the Marseille side, a shot from Alvaro Gonzales after a corner kick taken by Dimitri Payet bounced off the post (27th).
On the Rennes side, it was a shot from Benjamin Bourigeaud, served by a long cross from Romain Del Castillo, who came up against a Steve Mandanda, little requested but effective for his return after his injury in mid-December (42nd). But even if the Marseillais were more constructive, while the Bretons quickly resorted to long forward passes that Mbaye Niang could not exploit, it was on a draw that the two teams returned to the locker room, in a tense atmosphere.
Strootman between… and marks
As soon as he returned from the locker room, Benedetto, alone in the box, missed his lead (45 '). Little by little, the Rennais showed more control, but without succeeding in realizing their opportunities, stumbling several times on Mandanda, thus authoring a winning outing to counter Raphinha launched at full speed against him (72nd). A raphinha strike also passed right by.
"We clearly took the lead in the second half with more movement in depth, more intensity, more pressing, more individual quality in recovery", said Rennes coach Julien Stéphan.
His players continued to push, but those of Andre Villas-Boas ended up taking the upper hand in the 84th: Mendy blocked a free kick drawn by Payet, but Kevin Strootman, barely entered the game, sent the ball into the net.
And Rennes' efforts to return to the score in the last minutes were in vain and frustrated Julien Stephan. "We certainly lacked a little more experience and mischief to be able to turn things around on our side. It was a big fight, with a lot of intensity ”, he regretted, after the defeat.
"Maybe a draw would have been appropriate for a match like this. We had to have a goal to kill the match and it was for us in the last minutes ", analyzed, for his part, Andre Villas-Boas relieved.
Reindeer positive despite everything
For Marseille, author of a slow recovery last week in the Coupe de France against the Trélissac fans who only gave in on penalties, this victory, even in pain, gives a little breath before his trips to come to Bordeaux, Saint-Étienne Lille (22nd, 23rd and 25th days respectively).
In view of their efforts, the Britons who had drawn the draw (1-1) at the Vélodrome during the first leg may have regrets.
“We are disappointed, but this championship is long, you have to be resilient (…). The classification doesn't mean much, but we showed that in a half-time we were able to really undermine the second in the championship ", Julien Stéphan positively finally.
Not bad indeed for the club in the ninth budget of the championship, which was in 12th place a month and a half ago.