Bastia hold OM in battle of new coaches
By A. Scott
André-Pierre Gignac scored twice on Marcelo Bielsa's Ligue 1 bow as Olympique de Marseille coach, but they had to settle for a 3-3 draw in a breathless encounter with Claude Makelele's SC Bastia.
SC Bastia 3 - 3 Olympique de Marseille
Christopher Maboulou was the star of the show for the home side at the Stade Armand-Cesari, opening the scoring with a 30-yard thunderbolt after just nine minutes. Then, after Marseille had turned the game on its head thanks to a Gignac brace, including a penalty, and a Romaric own-goal, Maboulou inspired Bastia's second-half comeback.
The 24-year-old, a summer recruit from Ligue 2 Châteauroux, won a penalty which was converted by substitute Junior Tallo in the 66th minute and then netted the equaliser on 73 minutes as Makelele's men began the campaign with an excellent point.
There were many new faces on display at Furiani, but most of the focus was on Bielsa, the excentric Argentine who has been charged with the task of reviving Marseille's fortunes. His first team selection saw Romain Alessandrini handed his debut following his summer move from Rennes, while unheralded 19-year-old Stéphane Sparagna was given his senior debut in defence in the absence due to suspension of Alaixys Romao.
OM lined up in Bielsa's favoured 3-3-3-1 formation, while Makelele went with a more orthodox 4-2-3-1 system. The one-time Marseille midfielder has been busy rebuilding his squad over the summer and there were five new faces in the home team at a packed Furiani, including Brandão and Maboulou.
And the latter wasted little time in making his mark with a stunning goal that saw the home fans erupt. When a Sparagna clearance sat up kindly for him 30 yards out in a central position, Maboulou required no second invitation to hit it first-time on the volley, his strike catching Steve Mandanda off his line as it almost burst the net.
However, Marseille drew level just three minutes later, Gignac stealing in front of Romaric to emphatically head home Benjamin Mendy's left-wing cross at the near post. And OM were in front inside 17 minutes as the unfortunate Romaric could only slice a Florian Thauvin shot into his own net.
Alphonse Aréola, making his Bastia debut on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, then turned a Thauvin free-kick over the bar as the visitors threatened to run away with the game, while Alessandrini saw an effort correctly ruled out for offside just before the interval.
Penalties at both ends
Marseille went on to open up a seemingly decisive two-goal margin in the 62nd minute, however. When Sébastien Squillaci blocked a Gignac cross with his arm in the penalty box, referee Lionel Jaffredo awarded a spot-kick, and the big striker expertly converted from 12 yards.
Nevertheless, Bastia were offered a route back into the match four minutes later when Mendy was penalised for holding back Maboulou inside the box. Maboulou was off the field receiving treatment when Tallo, who impressed on loan at AC Ajaccio last term, sent Mandanda the wrong way from the penalty spot, but he returned to net the leveller.
Maboulou, who spent two years out of the game between 2011 and 2013 with a supposed cardiac anomaly, showed power and great technique as he collected a Brandão pass and spun away from Jérémy Morel and into the box. There, he got a lucky break of the ball off Nicolas Nkoulou before finishing through the legs of Mandanda to earn Bastia a deserved draw that they will look to build on when they go to PSG next weekend.