Marseille needed a win on Saturday night at fifth-placed Lille to ramp up the pressure on RC Lens in the fight for second place. Les Phocéens were already certain of finishing at least third in Ligue 1, courtesy of Monaco’s loss at Lyon. Meanwhile, Les Dogues had the opportunity to close the gap on Les Monégasques, as they look to secure European football. It could have been Dimitri Payet’s last game of the season before his suspension came into effect, but the former West Ham man was sidelined by Igor Tudor over his attitude in training.
The high-stakes nature of the game, coupled with the absence of Payet’s creative spark, meant the first half hour was a very dull affair between two sides not too keen on taking risks. Marseille struggled badly to string together coherent play, with Alexis Sánchez mostly kept at bay, and Lille kept losing the ball up front. Ruslan Malinovskyi won the ball back in midfield and launched an inch-perfect through ball for Jonathan Clauss. The France international kept his composure to find the back of Lucas Chevalier’s net. Clauss should have made it two just before half-time but he struck his shot to powerfully in the box, after sending Timothy Weah for a hot Dogue. Lille could hardly have produced a more tepid first half going forward – the Paulo Fonseca-led side averaging a meagre 0,07 xG.
The visitors eventually offered the hosts a way back in the game. Pau López and Chancel Mbemba did not know what to do of a loose ball in the Marseille box and Carlos Baloba pounced, before being taken out by the Spanish shot-stopper. Referee Jérôme Brisard pointed to the penalty spot and Jonathan David stepped up to score his 22nd goal of the season. Lille were a different beast in the second half, poking holes left and right in the visitors’ midfield. Marseille thought they had their lead back, but Alexis Sánchez’s goal was disallowed due to a tight offside call.
Tudor went all-in to get the win, subbing out wing-back Issa Kaboré for Portuguese striker Vitinha, even though the Manchester City loanee had come off the bench to replace the injured Samuel Gigot in the first half. Paulo Fonseca was more inspired with his substitutions. Angel Gomes and Rémy Cabella combined beautifully, with the latter laying it on a plate for Jonathan Bamba to head home. Lille held on for a vital and deserved win in the fight to qualify for the Europa League. They only have a 2-point deficit on fourth-placed Monaco. Meanwhile, Marseille will remain third and may see second-placed Lens go five points clear should the Artois side win today at Lorient.
Lille player ratings
Lucas Chevalier, 5
Timothy Weah, 5 – The American prospect failed to track Clauss’ run in the opener. Improved massively in the second half, like the rest of his teammates.
Lenny Yoro, 6 – An assured performance for the 17-year-old centre-back with plenty of gusto and maturity. One to keep an eye on.
Bafodé Diakité, 5
André Gomes, 5
Benjamin André, 6
Jonas Martin, 5
Carlos Baleba, 5
Jonathan Bamba, 6
Jonathan David, 6 – The Canadian international did not get a sniff of goal thanks to the impeccable defensive work of Mbemba in the first half. But he only needs one opportunity to find the back of the net. A nightmare to defend against in the second half.
Marseille player ratings
Pau López, 4
Samuel Gigot, N/A – The French centre-back sustained what appeared to be a concussion on the 19th minute. Replaced by Manchester City loanee Issa Kaboré, who failed to make an impact. So much so that he was replaced in the second half.
Chancel Mbemba, 4 – He made a complete hash of a loose ball leading to the Lille penalty and failed to feel the impending danger going in his back, leaving Lopez far too exposed. Also too late on Bamba’s goal. A shame after a near-flawless first half.
Leonardo Balerdi, 5
Jonathan Clauss, 5 – After Gigot’s injury, he took on the role of left-sided wing-back, to great effect as he gave his side the lead. But he could have scored at least one more.
Valentin Rongier, 4
Jordan Veretout, 4
Sead Kolašinac, 4
Ruslan Malinovskyi, 5
Cengiz Ünder, 4
Alexis Sánchez, 5 – Plenty of energy off the ball as usual from the Chilean international, who came so very close to score his 15th goal of the season.
GFFN | Bastien Cheval