PLAYER RATINGS | Marseille 4-1 Montpellier: Emphatic first Ligue 1 victory in 2024 for Les Phocéens

If the decision to fire Gennaro Gattuso was widely accepted to be the right call from Olympique Marseille then it was the timing that left questions. It was a decision that had been brewing for weeks but was eventually made a few days ahead of the second leg of their Europa League playoff against Shakhtar Donetsk. 

The tie was still very much in the balance after a 2-2 opening leg and the conventional wisdom was that Gattuso would at least lead the team into this match. Why throw the club into chaos before the most important fixture in their calendar? 

Only conventional wisdom is not something Marseille operates on. They are a team borne out of unexpected decisions and unexpected times, and to the club’s credit, their choice to swap Gattuso for Jean-Louis Gasset looked to be the right call as a new manager bounce saw Marseille win for the first time since the 7th of January as they cruised to a 3-1 victory. 

That victory came with an early goal against them, and Marseille looked to repeat the scenario as Montpellier opened the scoring within five minutes. A poor clearance from Samuel Gigot sliced the ball across the box and into danger as Musa Al-Taamari sensing the opportunity headed the falling ball home. 

Montpellier looked composed out of possession and broke with a ferocity that looked to completely unsettle Marseille immediately after the goal. And yet all it took was a momentary lapse in communication for the hosts to level the scores. Iliman Ndiaye capitalised as Benjamin Lecomte and Cheikhou Kouyaté struggled to recover from stumbling over one another. 

Marseille rode this momentum and finished the half with a confident performance capped off by a beautiful passing move that saw Ismaïla Sarr and Chancel Mbemba combine in the halfspace to then drive the ball across goal to the far post where Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could nestle the ball home. 

The second half allowed Marseille to consolidate their lead. The referee was advised on the hour mark to consult VAR after Ndiaye was brought down in the box. A penalty was awarded to the hosts and Aubameyang stepped up to add to the visitor’s woes. 

Marseille were in their full pomp as the game reached its conclusion and grabbed their fourth goal of the night. Aubameyang searched for his hat trick but was denied by Lecomte who pushed the ball into the path of Sacko who could do little but steer the ball into his own net, and complete a miserable what became a miserable loss for a team that had started so well. 

Marseille looked far removed from the team that had struggled to win a single game in Ligue 1 in 2024. The performance was confident and vibrant. The players had a clear idea of how to play and once again within the week overcame early adversity to show something special. 

Very rarely has there been method in Marseille’s madness, but the appointment of Jean-Louis Gasset may have proven to be the exception to the rule. 

Marseille player ratings 

Pau López, 6

Quentin Merlin, 4 – Struggled with his offensive tasks as he was positioned as the highest defender in the backline for most of the game. Montpellier constantly looked to attack down his flank during the first half which created a vulnerability addressed by his eventual substitution. 

Leonardo Balerdi, 6

Samuel Gigot, 6

Chancel Mbemba, 8

Geoffrey Kondogbia, 6

Jordan Veretout, 6

Ismaïla Sarr, 7

Amine Harit, 6

Iliman Ndiaye, 8 – A crucial game for someone who has struggled since moving back to his boyhood club in the summer. Ndiaye was a constant danger in his ability on the half-turn to receive and then carry forward, while his movement out-of-possession meant that he was always an option for a teammate. 

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 8

GFFN | Nick Hartland

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