Bamba Dieng opened his account for Olympique de Marseille with a brace on Saturday, and vanquished AS Monaco opponent Ruben Aguilar thinks OM will push Paris Saint-Germain hard for top honours come the end of the season.
Marseille talisman Dimitri Payet was suspended for the encounter at the Stade Louis II, while Poland striker Arkadiusz Milik has been ruled out until the end of the month with a knee injury. It meant coach Jorge Sampaoli had to get creative, and he tasked 21-year-old Bamba Dieng with leading the line.
To say he didn't disappoint would be quite the understatement. Scorer of 12 goals in just 14 games for Senegalese side Diambars prior to joining Marseille in 2020, Dieng hit the post twice before completing his brace as OM ran out 2-0 winners.
"I'm very happy with the performance," said the youngster after shining on his first Ligue 1 Uber Eats start. "I thank the team and the coach for trusting me. I was told to calm down after hitting both posts. I calmed down and then I scored!"
Matteo Guendouzi shone in midfield, the Arsenal-owned man denied a magnificent assist the first time Dieng hit the woodwork, and he was unsurprisingly upbeat after the game.
"We played our best game this season," he asserted. "We were strong in the first half and had an excellent game overall. It makes me very happy for Bamba. The team's really happy for him, we showed that we had a very deep squad. Since the start of the season, there has been a lot of rotation, but we're still performing well."
Marseille made seven changes from the side that beat AS Saint-Étienne 3-1 in the final game before the recent international break, and Aguilar thinks they have the strength in depth to challenge come the end of the campaign.
"We were up against a great team," he said. "They're well-equipped, they want to challenge for the title. Losing our first meeting last season didn't stop us winning the second, though, so we have to get back to work quickly."