For several days, Andre Villas-Boas has dared to say it: OM are playing for the title this season in Ligue 1. And what was first taken for a crude excuse to pass the pill of failure in the Champions League is no longer so laughable today. After its solid victory against AS Monaco this Saturday (2-1), Marseille is provisionally second with two games late to play (who could place OM alone in command of L1, editor’s note). Above all, apart from the result, Marseille won the boss against Monaco, a direct competitor. Without being flamboyant, the Marseillais were strong after a perfect start to the match, before managing without trembling. On the other hand for Monaco, it is a second defeat in a row against a direct opponent, after the setback in Lille last Sunday.
Benedetto regains his level
In the Champions League, success fled OM. This is not enough to explain the Marseille disaster in C1, but it played. In Ligue 1, however, since the start of the season, Marseille has known how to tip the scales in its favor. And the start of the match against AS Monaco was the perfect example with two goals in two strikes. Arranged in 4-4-2 rhombus with the doublet Thauvin–Benedetto at the top, OM stifled the Monegasques with very high pressing. After a huge entry opportunity for Monaco, unconverted by a Ben Yedder yet alone in the face of goal, the Marseille milieus pushed back the Monegasque bloc. Clumsy and feverish, the Asemist defense multiplied technical approximations. On one of them, Dario Benedetto, full of cool blood and technique, stared then centered towards Thauvin, alone at the far post to place an unstoppable header (1-0, 4th). First strike, first goal.
A few minutes later, OM took the same, or almost, and started again. On a new loss of Monaco ball, Rongier launched Thauvin who stared then centered towards the far post where Dario Benedetto, alone, adjusted with his foot under the bar (2-0, 13e). Put into orbit by its found offensive doublet, Marseille was quite ready to triple the bet on its third opportunity: a diving center from Sanson, barely too long for Benedetto (19e). After this thunderous start to the match, OM went into management mode. AS Monaco was planning a little more, but the strength of Kamara, Gueye and Rongier in the middle, the Marseille rear guard, and especially Mandanda, allowed OM to return to the locker room with this lead. And this despite a start from the Monegasques sickened by an imperial Mandanda, in particular on a signed missile Badiashile (32e).
A second act while managing
After the break, OM changed their strategy by moving to a 4-5-1 designed to keep the score. And that’s what the Marseillais did, without shaking too much, even if they could have conceded a first penalty on a hand of Nagatomo, saved by a fault committed on Sakai just before (51e). They could also have taken shelter if Thauvin had framed his roll on a millimeter offset from Benedetto (58e), or if Rongier with made the right choice on a breakthrough (66e). Disciplined, Marseille was not flamboyant in this second act, but extremely solid, conceding few chances to Monaco. And this until an avoidable foul by Thauvin, guilty of a dangerous high foot in front of Ben Yedder: indisputable penalty. And penalty transformed by the Monegasque striker, to revive the end of the match (2-1, 78th).
So serene so far, the Marseille ship was going to start to pitch, we thought. Well no, absolutely not. With the entry of Balerdi instead of Benedetto, OM padlocked the end of the match. Unable to pack the last minutes as one might have expected, Monaco stumbled against an intractable Marseille rear guard, and on circles still active. Whether it is Gueye (entered in the first period in place of Sanson, injured), Kamara, always so sparkling, and Rongier omnipresent, like a final return to the feet of Pellegri in the area (89e), the Marseille community managed this shock as a boss. Like the rest of the team. This is not nothing for a club which played Wednesday night against Manchester City, and which in recent years had lost the habit of controlling the debates against its direct competitors. In short, this sixth success in a row in L1, a fortiori against AS Monaco, can legitimately make OM want to dream loud and clear.