PLAYER RATINGS | Marseille 4-3 Ajax: Pierre-Emeric Aubameyang hat-trick seals Marseille qualification

It was a back-and-forth game at the Velodrome between Marseille and Ajax, where neither team ever aimed to put a foot on the ball, leaving room for nearly 90 minutes of transitional play. Ultimately, a last-minute penalty from Pierre-Emeric Aubameyang (34) saw the home team grab a consequence-heavy victory, as it subsequently saw them qualify for the next stage and knocked Ajax out of the competition.

The fixture got off to a quick start when Ismaïla Sarr (25) was brought down in the area by a clumsy Jorrel Hato (17) challenge (7′), giving away a logical penalty, which was confidently put away by Aubameyang. The Ajax response was instantaneous, as a kickoff play led to Brian Brobbey’s (21) incisive one-two with a back-to-goal Steven Berghius (31), who sent the striker through for him to put the ball away, with a tidy finish to the right of Pau López (28)(9′).

Though the game so far had been dominated by a high-pressing Marseille side, the dynamic switched after the goal, as the Ajax attackers multiplied excursions into the final third, well solicited by midfield duo Kenneth Taylor (21) and Benjamin Tahirović (20). 14th-minute wing play from Portuguese youngster Carlos Borges Forbs (19) nearly brought a second goal, as he slid Brobbey through with a smart pass between the defenders, though he couldn’t get the better of the Marseille keeper. Ten minutes later, Aubameyang thought he had scored his second of the night when a successful press from Renan Lodi (25) allowed him to win his one-on-one with Diant Romaj (22), though the goal was ruled out for an offside position.

Aubameyang’s opportunism saves Marseille

The disappointment was short, however, as two minutes later Chancel Mbemba (29) headed home a Jonathan Clauss (31) corner, taking the lead once again. Once again, Brobbey quickly leveled the scoring with a nearly identical play from his first, combining in the box with Berghuis before finishing with his left (30′).

The start to the second half was as eventful as the first, as two minutes in, Aubameyang pulled off an unstoppable over-head kick from Amine Harit’s (26) right-sided cross, putting Marseille ahead once again. The game then progressed, getting more and more tense until a late and dangerous tackle from Berghius on Joaquin Correa (29) saw him get sent off after a VAR intervention. This didn’t halt Ajax’s effort though, as they continued to put pressure on and try to equalise once again. It finally happened when new-entrant Chuba Akpom (28) scored off of halftime-sub Kristian Hlynsson’s (19) cross, clearly forgotten by the OM defence.

As the game approached the closing minutes, the draw seemed the most probable result, both teams having fought an energy-consuming battle for the past 90 minutes. That probably would have been the case, if it wasn’t for Ramaj’s dramatic 92nd-minute error, who let go of a seemingly easy-to-handle cross, falling to Ismaïla Sarr’s feet, who he fouled in a last-ditch effort to avoid the goal. A blatant penalty call, which saw PEA step up to the spot once again. A few deep breaths before sending the German the wrong way meant OM took the lead for the fourth and final time, concluding a thrilling game.

Marseille player ratings:

Pau López – 5

Jonathan Clauss – 4 – Both of OM’s fullbacks had a very contrasted match tonight, as their offensive prowesses disguised their inexistent defensive performance. Clauss’ crosses and combination play with Sarr were invaluable for Marseille’s attacks, registering an assist on Mbemba’s headed goal, but Brobbey and Akpom both scored while in direct confrontation with the Senegalese winger, highlighting the right-back’s difficulty in getting back to his defensive duties.

Samuel Gigot – 3 – It was a rather poor defensive outing from the Marseille captain, who very much struggled against his direct opposition, Brian Brobbey. He was caught out of position on both of his goals, two eager to win the ball, and too slow to bother the striker. The second half was better, though he was never reassuring.

Chancel Mbemba – 5

Renan Lodi – 3 – Though his offensive contribution was solid, nearly grabbing an assist thanks to his good pressing effort on Devyne Rensch (24′), which saw Aubameyang score an offside goal, this also meant there was lots of space left open on his flank. Ajax’s second and third goals both originated from his side, and it could’ve been worse if Brobbey had put away his 14th-minute chance, which also came from a Borges play on that wing.

Jordan Veretout – 5

Geoffrey Kondogbia – 5

Amine Harit – 7 – The Moroccan international was his team’s offensive leader throughout the match, carrying the ball superbly and eliminating defenders in the process, before trying to combine with Sarr or Aubameyang. He assisted the Gabonese’s overhead kick, and could’ve had more if his team had shown more realism in front of goal.

Joaquin Correa – 3 – The Argentinian’s time at Marseille hasn’t been full of success so far, and he definitely didn’t win any points tonight. A mixture of lack of implication and technical errors meant that his impact on the match was nill, if not negative when he did see the ball. 

Ismaïla Sarr – 7 – A very solid outing from the winger, as he was omnipresent on his wing, constantly bringing danger whenever he got the ball. Though his final third decision-making and general finishing could have been better, the Senegalese also brought a very respectable defensive presence, at times replacing out-of-position Clauss.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – 8 – The veteran had his best performance under the Phoocéen shirt since he joined last summer, succeeding in almost everything that he attempted. He even proved useful in build-up at times, winning duels to maintain possession high up the pitch.


Ajax player ratings:

Diant Romaj – 3 – The 22-year-old had an overall good performance, especially in the first half where he pulled off several decisive interventions on Sarr and Harit. However, his terrible error in the closing minutes of the game sealed Ajax’s fate, and it is difficult not to blame him for his team not coming away with at least one point tonight.

Anton Gaaei – 4

Devyne Rensch – 4

Jorrel Hato – 3

Borna Sosa – 3 

Kenneth Taylor – 5

Benjamin Tahirovic – 4

Carlos Borges Forbs – 5 – replaced by Kristian Hlynsson – 5

Steven Bergwijn – 6 – The Ajax captain was important in his team’s offensive play in the first half, very precious in holding possession and progressing the ball, using his strength and technical ability to hold off pressure. In the second half, he seemed to slowly disappear.

Steven Berghius – 6

Brian Brobbey – 7 – The Dutch powerhouse proved to be a very difficult opponent for Samuel Gigot, often getting the better of him with quick turns and intelligent ball protection. He was also very valuable in his team’s buildup, often coming deep to serve as a target man, receiving back to goal and bouncing passes off to the flanks.

GFFN | Alfred Lalande

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