Following wins from Lens and Monaco, as well as PSG losing at home against Rennes, Marseille had no choice but to end Will Still’s 17-game unbeaten run in order to establish themselves as Les Parisiens’ biggest title rivals this season. Croatia manager Igor Tudor resorted to fielding midfielder Valentin Rongier in central defense with both Leonardo Balerdi and Sead Kolašinac absent. It also meant that Manchester United loanee Eric Bailly, who went on at the 90th minute, had fallen down even further in the pecking order.
The first opportunity of the game fell to Arsenal loanee Folarin Balogun, whose tame curling shot was thwarted by Marseille goalie Pau López. It was brilliant end-to-end stuff between Ligue 1’s most in form team and the side with the best away record in the league, and Reims were rewarded early on. Yunis Abdelhamid fed Marshall Munetsi upfield. The excellent Reims midfielder bamboozled Jordan Veretout on the turn before laying it on a plate for Balogun to scuff his shot home.
Marseille responded in no time, with another Arsenal-linked player taking centre stage. Alexis Sánchez equalised through a direct free-kick perfectly curled in off the right post. However, Reims were still the most proactive side on the pitch with the Will Still-induced energetic, exciting and disciplined brand of football firmly on show. With Reims controlling proceedings, Marseille resorted to completely bypass the midfield. Reims were caught cold as López launched a long ball directly for Sánchez. The Chilean moved ahead of Abdelhamid to seal a classy brace.
In the second half, Reims kept stringing beautiful free-flowing collective moves, but they were let down when applying the finishing touch. Munetsi headed on the post after a cross from Balogun. López came to the fore with a stunning save to thwart a free-kick from Flips. Marseille were completely under pressure, with all their attacking players nowhere to be seen in most parts of the second half. OM centre-back Samuel Gigot came close to putting the game to bed in the last ten minutes, but his header went wide. Balogun had the equalising ball at his feet in injury-time, but his left-footed volley only found the post.
Thanks to the individual brilliance of López, Sánchez and Rongier, Marseille eventually clinged on to another hard-fought away win to get their second place back. Les Phocéens have now a 7-point deficit on league leaders PSG. As for Reims, the unbeaten run that started in early October 2022 is over, but there was still plenty to enjoy from the Champagne side tonight.
Reims players ratings
Yehvann Diouf, 4
Thomas Foket, 4
Cheick Keita, 5
Yunis Abdelhamid, 4
Thibault de Smet, 5
Azor Matusiwa, 5
Dion Lopy, 6
Marshall Munetsi, 6 – The Zimbabwean created the opener out of thin air and was heavily involved in his side’s best opportunities. One of Ligue 1’s most underrated box-to-box midfielders.
Junya Ito, 6
Alexis Flips, 5
Folarin Balogun, 6 – The Arsenal loanee scored his 17th goal of the Ligue 1 season after keeping his composure in front of goal. But he could have had at least one more.
Marseille players ratings
Pau López, 7 – The Spanish goalie registered his second assist of the season and was an assured presence in his penalty box. Made a great save to deflect a good free-kick from Alexis Flips that was headed to his top corner.
Nuno Tavares, 4 – The Portuguese full-back kept things simple defence-wise. But as often, his decision-making was erratic when going forward. For instance, he sent the ball into row Z after rounding past Diouf.
Valentin Rongier, 7 – The 28-year-old midfielder again proved his versatility by slotting seemlessly to the centre-back role. He is without doubt one of Ligue 1’s most reliable and consistent players.
Samuel Gigot, 6
Chancel Mbemba, 6
Jonathan Clauss, 5
Jordan Veretout, 4
Mattéo Guendouzi, 5 – The French international played from deeper than usual, which suited his ability to launch into challenges and cut passing lanes.
Ruslan Malinovskyi, 4
Cengiz Ünder, 4
Alexis Sánchez, 7 – The Chilean international put on a show. Goals from a direct free-kick and a poacher’s finish to earn Marseille all the points. A constant threat throughout with his drive, his technical ability and his vision of the game.
GFFN | Bastien Cheval