Brandão delivers Coupe de la Ligue for OM
By A. Scott
Brandão came off the bench to score the only goal of the game in extra time as Olympique de Marseille put their dreadful recent run of form behind them to beat Olympique Lyonnais and lift the Coupe de la Ligue for the third year running.
With the game approaching the midway point in extra time, the Brazilian pounced on a Benoît Cheyrou cross from the left, turned away from Samuel Umtiti, and fired a low shot past Hugo Lloris to bring an end to Marseille's 12-game run without a win in all competitions. Having toiled throughout the previous 105 minutes, Lyon never looked like finding an equaliser, and the massed ranks of Marseille fans were able to celebrate yet another triumph in this competition to go with their victories in 2010 and 2011.
It was the perfect moment for Didier Deschamps' side to get back to winning ways and, as well as the trophy itself, Marseille also come away with the prize of a place in next season's Europa League. That will come as an almighty relief to both the fans and the management of the south-coast side, whose chances of European qualification via the league have already evaporated.
Deschamps triumphs at Stade de France yet again
It was a sweet night for Deschamps too, as the 43-year-old tasted yet more glory at France's national stadium. DD won the World Cup here with France in 1998 and has now won four Coupe de la Ligue finals in Saint-Denis as a coach. After leading Monaco to the title in 2003, he has now won three in a row with OM. After all he has been through in the last few months, he will feel he has earned this triumph.
Lyon, meanwhile, will hope to quickly put this defeat behind them as they attempt to claim another top-three finish in the league. They may still be waiting for their first trophy in four years, but they will be back at the Stade de France in two weeks time to face US Quevilly in the final of the Coupe de France.
However, Rémi Garde and his side - who had Dejan Lovren sent off right at the end of extra time - can regret the fact that they never looked like repeating their form of recent weeks, as they toiled to break down a well-organised Marseille outfit. With so much at stake, tension got the better of both sides, and the contest never really came alive as a spectacle.
Marseille were more interested in keeping their shape and proving difficult to break down and, with Nicolas Nkoulou in majestic form in the heart of their defence, they squeezed the life out of their opponents, with Michel Bastos and Jimmy Briand starved of service on the wings. Marseille's front four also saw very little of the ball in what was a largely forgettable first period. Indeed, the closest either side came to finding a breakthrough was from a Bastos cross-cum-shot that passed just beyond the reach of the outstretched limbs of Bafétimbi Gomis at the back post.
The game did pick up after the restart as Marseille began to realise that a third consecutive triumph in the competition might be within their reach, and they came within inches of getting the breakthrough in the 65th minute when Mathieu Valbuena's cross from the left was headed against the post by Morgan Amalfitano via the glove of Hugo Lloris. Yet that was the only attempt on target in regulation time, with Bafétimbi Gomis squandering OL' s best opportunity of the second period when he headed a Kim Källström corner over the bar.
After a goalless 90 minutes, the game barely improved in extra time, but then Deschamps made what proved to be the game-changing move as he withdrew Loïc Rémy - who had been a pre-match fitness doubt - and threw on Brandão. He had been on the field barely six minutes when he struck the killer blow.
André Ayew almost made it 2-0 at the start of the second extra period, only for his back-post header to be turned around the post by Lloris. But it always looked like one goal would settle this game, and so it proved.