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Balotelli sees red as OM seal fifth

Publish on 24/05/2019 at 00h00 - S. WILLIS

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Florian Thauvin's 16th goal of the season was enough for Olympique de Marseille to beat Montpellier 1-0 and finish fifth. OM substitute Mario Balotelli was sent off.

Olympique de Marseille 1-0 Montpellier Hérault SC 

THE MATCH

Rudi Garcia's final match in charge of OM resulted in the club leapfrogging Montpellier to climb to fifth, a position that would have been enough for European qualification during the seasons Paris Saint-Germain dominatd the domestic Cup competitions.

The first half was short on excitement and only a shot by home captain Dimitri Payet (13') that went narrowly wide stood out. Montpellier had come to defend fifth place and did that well in the first 45 minutes before nearly going in front (51') when Yohann Pelé - starting in place of Steve Mandanda - saved from Daniel Congré.

But on 56 minutes OM took the lead through top scorer Florian Thauvin, who ended the campaign as the fourth-leading scorer in the division with 16 goals. Thauvin followed up on last week's double at Toulouse by heading home a Valère Germain flick-on of a Payet corner.

Montpellier wing-back Ambroise Oyongo (57') almost equalised immediately as he crashed a right-footed shot against the crossbar with Pelé static. Pelé then saved from Andy Delort (60' and 61') as the match really caught life.

Balotelli, who missed the Toulouse game with a muscular problem, had come on just before the hour and on 81 minutes he was denied in a one-on-one by Benjamin Lecomte. Montpellier should have levelled (82') after a Pelé error but Mihailo Ristic inexplicably turned down the chance to finish into an empty net as he attempted to tee up veteran fellow sub Souleymane Camara.

Balotelli (87') has rarely been out of the headlines since joining OM in January and was red carded late on for a challenge from behind on Congré. Though Garcia is on his way, owner Frank McCourt has confirmed president Jacques-Henri Eyraud and sporting director Andoni Zubizaretta will retain their positions.

THE PLAYER: Mario Balotelli

In what could well have been his final Marseille appearance, Balotelli went close to scoring his ninth goal of the season and collected his first OM red card. It has certainly been an eventful few months for the Italian, whose form in his early appearances for the club suggested OM might be able to mount a realistic challenge for a Champions League berth.

THE STAT: 6

Olympique de Marseille have not finished in the top three in Ligue 1 Conforama in any of the last six seasons since ending second in 2012-2013.