Week 13 review: OM go second, PSG maintain lead
OM rocketed into second after a 2-1 win over the OL of ex-coach Rudi Garcia, but PSG, 2-1 winners in Brest, remain eight points clear at the top. Sainté's hot streak continued and Rennes roared back into the top half of the table.
Despite both OM and OL's having struggled early on in the season, Sunday night's Olympico was a high-stakes affair. With former OM boss Rudi Garcia having recently signed on at OL after a somewhat sour end to his time at the Vélodrome, and Marseille not having won in the fixture in five and a half year, there was plenty of history at play as OM playmaker Dimitri Payet struck a double - the first of which was OM's Ligue 1 Conforama-record 4000th goal - in the 2-1 win.
AVB: 'A great win'
"We had the match under control at the end of the first half and I thought we were going to score a third goal and breathe easy," said OM boss André Villas-Boas, who saw Moussa Dembélé pull one back for OL just before the hour mark. "But it was a great win nonetheless; we played well even with just ten of us out there [after the expulsion of Alvaro Gonzalez, 64th]. I liked the effort and the atmosphere. We showed that we are able to beat a direct competitor and play football well. I hope it continues."
The win sent OM rocketing through a packed table into second place, while OL - who were missing attacking leader Memphis Depay for the match - dip to 14th.
"I think they were better than us in drive and fighting spirit. That's why we lost this game, even though we started out pretty well," said Garcia. "What disappoints me the most is that we didn't make the most of being a man up. But we're a young team that also has to learn from this kind of game and situation."
Di Maria, Icardi unstoppable
So too it was no easy task for champions and leaders Paris Saint-Germain as they travelled to the north-western tip of France to take on ninth-placed Brest, who took an undefeated home record into the match. Fit-again Edinson Cavani looked rusty up front and it was Angel Di Maria who opened the scoring before Mauro Icardi (who came on for Cavani) cancelled out Monaco loanee Samuel Grandsir's leveller to clinch the win and maintain the capital club's eight-point lead atop the standings.
"I liked this win because it was difficult, like a cup match. We changed a lot of players and some were low on confidence, but we had to stay calm," said PSG boss Thomas Tuchel, who opted to rest Kylian Mbappé for the trip. "It's not easy for Edi [Cavani] because he lacks a bit of rhythm. He's competing with [Mauro] Icardi, who's full of confidence. That's how it is right now and attackers can have periods like this."
Puel, calm and collected
Meanwhile the Puel effect is still holding sway in Saint-Etienne, Les Verts stretching their unbeaten run to nine matches as they prevailed in a five-goal thriller in Nantes. Striker Denis Bouanga netted a double - including the winner - as Sainté twice came from behind and won 3-2 against a Nantes side who had conceded just one goal at home this season.
"I'm satisfied, especially after a very complicated week. We got back [from their 2-2 UEFA Europa League draw in Ukraine] at 6am on Friday and played two and a half days later. I liked the team spirit, though," declared coach Claude Puel, whose side rose toe fourth with the win. "We rotated the team and nobody minded. The players today understood what I wanted them to do, even if some of them don't play that often. It's good to see the group progressing. The league table looks good but we're staying calm about that."
It was a second loss in a row for Christian Gourcuff's Nantes, who plummet from third to ninth, supplanted by an Angers side who were held 0-0 on their trip to Reims, as FC Metz were away to LOSC.
Savanier is back!
Montpellier saw playmaker and Ligue 1 Conforama's 2018-19 top assist provider Téji Savanier - who missed the beginning of the season with his hometown club through injury after signing from rivals Nîmes Olympique on the summer - score a spectacular first goal for the club as they trumped south-western rivals Toulouse 3-0 to move up to sixth place.
Stade Rennais FC put their mid-week UEFA Europa League elimination behind them with a rousing 3-1 win over Amiens, Mbaye Niang getting the Brittany club in front with a Pythagorean back-heel before star summer signing Raphinha hit his first of the season, from the penalty spot, to make sure of the result.
So too Strasbourg, who had lost four of their last six, came back with a bang, South Africa striker Lebo Mothiba hitting a double to help clinch a 4-1 win over ten-man Nîmes, who lost Florian Miguel to a red card on 66 minutes. The results steers the club from eastern France away from the drop zone to 16th, while Nîmes, who will play their postponed Week 12 clash with Rennes in January, sit provisionally at the foot of the table.
Monaco made it four wins from five in all competitions and climbed up to 11th as they bounced back from defeat to Sainté with a 1-0 win at home to PSG-killers Dijon that came courtesy of Aleksandr Golovin, who bagged his third of the season with fit-again Islam Slimani providing a league-high eighth assist.
Both Nice and Bordeaux were looking to build on strong Week 12 results as they clashed at the Allianz Riviera on Friday night, but Jimmy Briand's 96th Ligue 1 Conforama goal, from the spot, cancelled out Pierre Less-Melou's opener and it ended 1-1.