Marseille squeeze past Nîmes to close on top three
Olympique de Marseille moved to within five points of the top three with a nail-biting 2-1 win over Nîmes Olympique on Saturday to end a three-game winless run.
Olympique de Marseille 2-1 Nîmes Olympique
With Olympique Lyonnais in third having lost at FC Nantes on Friday and AS Saint-Étienne in fourth not playing until Sunday, OM had an opportunity to move into the top four for at least 24 hours and close the gap on Lyon to five points.
A winless run of three games meant expectations were high but not all that hopeful inside the Stade Orange Vélodrome; the positive start they made helped settle the crowd though.
Nemanja Radonjic provided the cross that allowed Mario Balotelli to send a shot arcing towards the top corner only for Paul Bernardoni to leap across his goal and punch the ball to safety (6').
The visitors had won the Week 2 fixture between the pair, but found OM in the mood to avenge that loss. Radonjic, whose pace down the left made him a serious threat, tested Bernardoni again (25') and Florian Thauvin sent a lob just over (36') before Luiz Gustavo crashed an effort off a post (41').
The offside flag cut short Radonjic's celebrations after he had fired into the empty net shortly after the restart (51'), and the hosts were denied again by the flag when Thauvin sent a curling shot beyond Bernardoni (63').
That only served to increase the frustration inside the Vélodrome, but the pressure was relieved in the space of less than two minutes.
First, Dimitri Payet's corner was headed in by Valère Germain (73'), who had replaced the injured Balotelli just after the half-hour mark, and Luiz Gustavo then flighted arced a delicate shot over Bernardoni from the edge of the box (74').
It was the seventh successive away game — and the 11th in 16 this season — in which Nîmes had conceded twice, but Bernard Blaquart's men have shown character this season and stretched Marseille's fragile self-belief almost to breaking point.
Téji Savanier fired past Steve Mandanda from the penalty spot after Boubacar Kamara had handled (82'), and when Bouna Sarr fell and put a hand on the ball in his own penalty area deep in added time, referee Frank Schneider again pointed to the spot (90+4') — the relief when he reversed his decision after using VAR was huge.
THE PLAYER: Valère Germain
The ultimate team player, the ex-AS Monaco and OGC Nice forward has had to play second fiddle to Balotelli since January, but again provided for his side when they needed a breakthrough with what was his first home goal since late September.
THE STAT: 26
Marseille have never drawn 0-0 at home to Nîmes in 26 league games.