PLAYER RATINGS | Marseille 4-0 Villarreal: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leads Marcelino’s humiliation on return to Stade Vélodrome

The atmosphere was smouldering ahead of the teams coming out, as the Olympique de Marseille fans awaited the figure of one man. The man who had led the team at the start of the season but had left after exceptional circumstances.

He had quit days ahead of the club’s opening fixture in the Europa League against Ajax alleging severe threats, intimidation, and slander from sections of the supporters. And weeks later still angry at his treatment, slated those same fans that had forced him out “Some radical supporters want to constantly influence events preventing it from being a big club.

It was of course some cosmic injustice for Marcelino that he would have to make his return to the Stade Vélodrome this season while feelings still ran “hot” as Amine Harit had warned. Villarreal had even gone to the lengths of hiring private security for their manager. And as he stepped out onto a pitch he had probably wished to never see again he was met with the wall of sound. 

It was a feeling that the Marseille team would hope to utilise as they tried to navigate the opening leg of their Europa League Round of 16 tie and make it four wins in a row for their fourth manager of the season; Jean-Louis Gasset. 

Villarreal understood this and tried from the first whistle to dampen the noisy crowd. They looked to break up the momentum of the game with clever fouls that prevented Marseille from finding their flow. They would delay their set pieces waiting until the exact right moment to play the ball. And when they went down, they stayed down. 

It was an effective tactic for the first twenty minutes but was undone by the defence stepping away from Marseille as they crowded the box. Iliman Ndiaye was able to hold the ball within the penalty area as Villarreal looked to contain him. It allowed for Jonathan Clauss to overlap and attack the halfspace and put in a tidy cross for Jordan Veretout to leap at. The midfielder headed home to put Marseille ahead. 

Marseille looked to batter Villarreal with invading crosses and it was success by numbers for the second of the game. Harit’s driven cross was deflected by Villarreal defender Santi Comesaña towards the goal. It looked well-covered but Yerson Mosquera panicked and attempted to clear the ball only to turn it into his own net. 

The floodgates were open and a third came before the halftime break when Ismaïla Sarr latched onto Harit’s pass to storm into the box where he was brought down by Mosquera in a night-to-forget for the defender. 

The referee waved away the initial decision before consulting VAR and awarding Marseille a penalty. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang stepped up and while Pepe Reina went the right way, the forward’s shot was a touch too high and went in over the veteran goalkeeper’s fingertips. 

Marcelino wrung the changes at halftime as a party atmosphere descended on the stadium bringing on Alexander Sørloth, Dani Parejo, and Alberto Moreno. However, after thirteen minutes Marseille once again punished their visitors as Aubameyang scored the fourth. 

It was an incredible effort from the forward to score his sixth since Gasset became manager. A lob from an unlikely angle over Reina to kiss the post and drop into the goal. The game was well and truly over and there was still almost half the game left to play. A fact consolidated by substitute Alex Moreno picking up his second yellow and being sent off. 

The game continued in a strange lull as Villarreal dropped deep and hoped only to avoid an even deeper deficit. The endless jubilant chants from the Marseille supporters were like a funeral dirge for the manager who had left them. The fury and upset that had started the game were gone, the wall of sound was no longer enraged, there was only the celebration of a team that has finally found its rhythm. 

Marseille player ratings

Pau López, 5

Quentin Merlin, 7 

Leonardo Balerdi, 5 – Frequently was pulled out of position in the first half. Quick to engage and break the defensive line which was largely left unpunished because Mbemba was so good at sweeping up the Villarreal attacks. 

Chancel Mbemba, 8

Jonathan Clauss, 8

Jordan Veretout, 7

Geoffrey Kondogbia, 6 

Amine Harit, 9 – The midfielder was almost at the heart of everything that worked well for Marseille. Essential in three of their goals. He was a vision of constant movement looking to thread passes throughout the pitch. 

Ismaïla Sarr, 7

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 9 – The forward looks freed under Gasset. His record under the new manager has been incredible and his confidence looks as if it has fully returned to him. 

Illiman Ndiaye, 8

GFFN | Nick Hartland

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