Taiwo tips final Marseille's way
By I. Holyman
Marseille became the first team to win back-to-back Coupe de la Ligue finals with Taye Taiwo striking the only goal of the game to see off Montpellier in a bitterly-contested affair at the Stade de France on Saturday.
MARSEILLE 1-0 MONTPELLIER
An 82nd-minute penalty by the Nigerian full-back had given Marseille all three points in their Ligue 1 encounter at Montpellier barely six days before, and Taiwo again proved the difference between the two sides, firing home with ten minutes remaining as OM repeated their final victory over Bordeaux of last season.
Last weekend’s bruising league match had ended with tempers fraying, and Montpellier continued in the same fiery vein in Paris. André-Pierre Gignac was left limping after an early challenge while Stéphane Mbia lasted barely six minutes. The Cameroonian international hobbled off to be replaced by Charles Kaboré before being carried to the dressing-room with his thigh heavily strapped and the OM bench clearly concerned.
With the south-westerners effectively stifling the holders only a well-struck Lucho Gonzalez free-kick troubled Laurent Pionnier in the Montpellier goal. Montpellier proved barely more threatening with limited service to their main threat, Olivier Giroud, who claimed his team’s goal in defeat last weekend. However, when Marseille failed to clear a looping ball into their box, Jamel Saihi stole in to stab goalwards only to see Steve Mandanda block with his feet.
A raid from full-back Cyril Jeunechamp that led to him drilling a shot goalwards aside, Montpellier were largely on the backfoot as Marseille threatened to break the deadlock before half-time. Mathieu Valbuena may well have done so but for his snap half-volley to take a deflection off Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa that pushed the ball onto a post before Kaboré neatly worked space for himself just outside the box – sadly for Marseille, the wayward finish did not match the quality of the approach play.
Everything almost came together, though, for Marseille immediately after the re-start. Lucho Gonzalez, a peripheral figure in the first half, sent Gignac clear down the left and his cross was met by André Ayew, whose powerful downward header was wonderfully parried by the alert Laurent Pionnier, again preferred to first-choice Geoffrey Jourdren after starting all three games en route to the final.
Pionnier was powerless, though, as Marseille came desperately close to moving ahead when Ayew rose at the near post to glance a header goalwards – the sharp, collective intake of breath from the capacity crowd was sufficient indication of just how close the ball had passed to the far post.
Often playing through the middle in the first half, Valbuena had been ineffective, unsurprisingly dominated by the far more physically imposing Yanga-Mbiwa and his centre-back partner Benjamin Stambouli. In wide positions, however, Valbuena’s trickery proved far more of a nuisance to Montpellier, and a foul on the French international midfielder by ex-OM defender Garry Bocaly gave Marseille the opening they had been longing for.
When Benoît Cheyrou’s free-kick was half-cleared by the Montpellier defence, the ball dropped invitingly on the edge of the box where Taiwo swivelled before firing low through a crowd and into the bottom corner to see Marseille triumph once more.