Mario Balotelli was frustrated on his first start for Olympique de Marseille, with Tristan Dingomé (21') and Suk Hyun-jun (68') scoring in a 2-1 win for Stade de Reims at the Stade Auguste Delaune.
Stade de Reims 2-1 Olympique de Marseille
After his scoring debut from the bench against LOSC on Friday, this was Balotelli's first start for Marseille following his winter transfer from OGC Nice. Taking advantage of the Italy international's physical presence at the point of their attack was OM's gameplan, for Lucas Ocampos and Bouna Sarr up the right hand side in particular, but they struggled to find the striker with multiple early crosses into the box (8', 11'). Reims were visibly buoyed in being able to contain Balotelli, and began to creep forward themselves midway through the half, taking the lead when Mathieu Cafaro danced past two markers and squared for Dingomé, who found Steve Mandanda's far corner on the turn for 1-0 (21'). Reims thought they had earned a penalty with the first half drawing to close with Maxime Lopez looking to have fouled Cafaro in the box, but after consulting VAR, referee François Letexier waved the claim away (43').
Reims pull clear
Reims started the second half as they had ended the first, as the stronger team, and Mandanda was called into action soon after the restart when Rémi Oudin found Boulaye Dia in his box, but the young forward was denied his second Ligue 1 Conforama goal by the big shot-stopper, who scooped the corner-bound shot clear (52'). Balotelli was then inches away from his second Marseille goal in as many games with a free-kick at the other end, but Mandanda's opposite number Edouard Mendy - a former OM squad member - flew across his goal to push it out for a corner (63'). Mendy then reacted quickly to stop Kevin Strootman's effort after the Dutchman followed up on Lopez's rebounded shot (66'), and Reims duly doubled their advantage at the other end, with Suk - seconds after replacing Dia - sending Mandanda the wrong way from close range (68'). Marseille pulled one back late on through Clinton N'Jie (86') but it proved to be too little too late and Reims escaped with all three points.
THE PLAYER: Tristan Dingomé
A left-back for much of his career, Dingomé impressed in the No.10 role in last Saturday's 1-0 win at EA Guingamp, and was thrown in behind a lone striker once again by David Guion here. The coach's faith was repaid, with Dingomé winning 11 challenges when defending from the front to go complement his first goal for the club.
THE STAT: 7
Reims are now undefeated in their last seven Ligue 1 Conforama matches. The last time the Champagne club tasted defeat was back in early December, when they were edged 1-0 by Toulouse FC. Now just three points off a European place, a first tilt at continental silverware since the 1962/63 season is looking ever more possible.