Payet centre stage as Marseille tame Toulouse
Dimitri Payet was the star of the show with two goals as Olympique de Marseille got the Ligue 1 Conforama season off to a rip-roaring start with an emphatic 4-0 win over Toulouse FC on Friday.
Olympique de Marseille 4-0 Toulouse FC
Marseille did not come into the game in the best shape: one win in seven pre-season friendlies, their FIFA World Cup heroes Adil Rami, Florian Thauvin and Steve Mandanda missing from the starting XI as well as new signing Duje Caleta-Car.
Toulouse, who survived the drop thanks only to a nail-biting play-off win over AC Ajaccio, arrived with new hope in the shape of former coach Alain Casanova, back in charge after a three-year hiatus and with new signings such as goalkeeper Baptiste Reynet and striker Aaron Leya Iseka - formerly of Marseille - dotted through their side.
Though OM, who had lost just one of their previous 21 encounters with Toulouse, started brightly, it was the visitors who came closest to breaking the deadlock — Manuel Garcia, on loan from Manchester City, saw his shot flash just past Yohann Pelé's goal (26').
VAR is being used in Ligue 1 Conforama for the first time this season, and Marseille enjoyed an historic helping hand to put them in front — Kelvin Amian's handball was only spotted by referee Ruddy Buquet with use of video. Payet needed no assistance in dispatching the spot-kick (45').
With teenager Boubacar Kamara solid and steady alongside Luiz Gustavo in central defence, Marseille were able to build on their lead. Lucas Ocampos, who had recovered from an ankle injury that had seemed destined to sideline him, teed up Bouna Sarr for a shot — Reynet's block dropped for Payet, who fired first-time high into the net (62').
Reynet was more fortunate with the rebound when he kicked away a Valère Germain effort at his near post (75') though the Marseille striker was more clinical when he latched onto Morgan Sanson's through ball to make it three a minute from time (89').
Thauvin had been on the pitch for six minutes when that happened, and a handul of seconds later, last season's leading scorer opened his 2018/19 account when Amian and Christopher Jullien hesitated to score from close range (90+2') and give coach Rudi Garcia the ideal start to a campaign he hopes will end with a podium finish.
THE PLAYER: Dimitri Payet
To paraphrase George Clooney, 'Who else?' The injury that caused him to miss the France's FIFA World Cup triumph and the disappointment of not going to Russia may just spur the OM captain on to his best season yet. A mouth-watering prospect.
THE STAT: 12
Payet has been involved in 12 goals in his career against Toulouse, scoring five and assisting on seven — that's four more than against any other Ligue 1 Conforamam club.