Marseille edge closer to the top
By S. Willis
Marseille got back to winning ways with an assured 2-0 win in Rennes on Friday night, Loïc Rémy and Lucho making the most of the Breton side’s lack of precision to climb within a point of top spot.
Marseille took an important step in the defence of their title - and prepared in the best possible way for Tuesday night's Champions League clash away to Manchester United - as they bounced back from last week’s 2-1 loss to Lille by roundly bested Rennes with a strong Lucho-inspired team display, inflicting a first home defeat on their hosts since Montpellier back in Week 10.
Rennes were on a run of five consecutive league wins coming into the match, and in the first 20 minutes it seemed they could keep up the blistering pace as they stifled OM and wreaked havoc with speedy forwards Razak Boukari and Victor-Hugo Montaño.
OM take control
But Marseille’s strong organisation and insistent pressure on the ball took the ascendancy and it was the visitors who drew first blood when Lucho danced through the Rennes area before cutting back for André Ayew, whose cross found an unmarked Rémy to provide a powerful header that left Nicolas Douchez with no chance (23’).
Deschamps men grew in confidence as the match played out, defending as a bloc rather than chasing down the ball and leaving Rennes to work the ball and make the runs. The Breton forwards saw a lot of the ball with some fine service from Jérôme Leroy and Stéphane Dalmat, but they too rarely found any solid support and thus Antonetti’s men were left to face the OM counter-attacks before starting over again.
Yann M’Vila was the only Rennes’ man to really trouble Steve Mandanda, lashing a powerful low volley at the near post from a Leroy free-kick, but the France ’keeper and Marseille captain was equal to the task.
Just desserts for Lucho
M’Vila’s opposite number Lucho was emblematic of Marseille’s match, struggling in the opening stages before delivering another high-quality performance of slick passes, deft touches and staunch defending, and he got his reward ten minutes from time.
After substitute Jordan Ayew had made the most of Jean-Armel Kana-Biyik’s miscue on a long Benoît Cheyrou pass, the youngster cut deftly back for the arriving Argentine who made no mistake with a clinical side-footer (80’) to make it 2-0 and clinch all three points.
While Rennes remain in second place despite the loss - their first reverse this season faced with a direct rival - there is no doubting that it comes as a blow to their hopes a top-three finish. Marseille meanwhile look to be constructing the same kind of late-season form that saw them steal Bordeaux’s crown in the last campaign, and should they triumph in next week’s Clasico at home to PSG, their title defence will be in fine shape indeed.