Gomis and Evra score as OM go fifth
By D. Crossan
Patrice Evra's first Olympique de Marseille goal was the winner as his side beat Nice 2-1 to climb above Bordeaux and into fifth place. Nice will now finish third.
Olympique de Marseille 2-1 OGC Nice
This was OM's first win over a top-five club all season and next week's match at Bordeaux will be critical to both clubs' hopes of finishing fifth and securing a Europa League spot. Finish sixth and they'll have to hope Paris Saint-Germain beat Angers in the Coupe de France final. As PSG have a vastly superior goal difference and are six points clear with two games to play, Nice are guaranteed to finish third, meaning they'll have to come through the qualifying rounds to make the Champions League group stage.
The first half was fabulously entertaining and full of attacking verve from both sides. Ricardo Pereira, a scorer in the 3-1 win over PSG the previous week, struck the post in the third minute at the end of a flowing move that had started when Mario Balotelli won the ball in his own half off Florian Thauvin. The OM attacker, a hat-trick scorer at Caen in Week 35, was injured in the contact and soon forced off, replaced by Rémy Cabella.
By then Nice had struck the woodwork again. After a neat one-two with Valentin Eysseric, Dalbert Henrique struck the base of the post with a left-footed shot. The action was unrelenting and at the other end Morgan Sanson should have given OM the lead and Yoan Cardinale no chance to make a save.
Soon after that wasted opportunity, OM were in front. 21 minutes on the clock when Dimitri Payet swung over a corner from the left and home captain Bafétimbi Gomis headed in his 18th Ligue 1 goal of the season. The striker beat visiting skipper Paul Baysse in the air and Cardinale didn't cover himself in glory with his attempts to get off the ground.
Baysse had the ball in the back of the net, only for it to be ruled out for offside, and Ricardo Pereira might have done better when well placed on 33 minutes. Five minutes after the restart, Nice levelled from a set piece, Jean-Michaël Seri's delivery finding Baysse in space. The centre-half squared for Balotelli to shin the ball into the net from close range.
Nice switched off from the restart and only alert goalkeeping from Cardinale denied Gomis a second of the game. Evra then emerged as the unlikely hero, scoring the 66th-minute winner. Payet's no-look pass released Maxime Lopez and the youngster crossed for Evra to finish with a stooping header that sent a 60,000-plus crowd wild.
Nice were running out of steam and, despite Lucien Favre throwing on attackers, struggled to create anything as Marseille joined Caen and Monaco in the elite club of sides to have beaten Les Aiglons in the league this campaign.
THE PLAYER: Patrice Evra
35 years old, the January signing from Juventus celebrated his goal with typically infectious enthusiasm, getting down to do a series of press ups as if to say there's life in the veteran yet. The left-back's goal was his first in the top division since 2003, when he was a Monaco player.
THE STAT: 15
Mario Balotelli has scored 15 league goals for the first time in his career, beating the 14 he managed for AC Milan in 2013-2014. The Italian scored twice against OM on debut in a 3-2 win in Week 4 and added the equaliser here, only his third Ligue 1 goal away from home.