Olympique de Marseille saw off the challenge of Montpellier to lift the Coupe de la Ligue trophy for the second successive season thanks to a Taye Taiwo winner nine minutes from time in an edgy encounter at the Stade de France.
A first half with a lack of clear-cut chances, jumped into life when Mathieu Valbuena smacked the post after a period of dominance. Montpellier rarely threatened Steve Mandanda’s goal, and their lack of urgency was punished when the Nigerian struck late on to break La Paillade hearts.
Marseille, who were without the suspended Loic Remy after he was sent off in last weekend’s league meeting between the two sides, were dealt a considerable blow within the first five minutes with heavy challenges from the Montpellier players curtailing Stephane Mbia’s inclusion in the game, with Deschamps opting to preserve him for the important tests that lie ahead.
Despite the early setback, it was Marseille that took a dominant position in what was a balanced opening 45 minutes. A vicious free kick from Lucho Gonzalez, was clawed away by cup goalkeeper Laurent Pionnier in what was the first real attacking endeavour of the final.
Minutes later, Montpellier surged forward, and an awkward bounce from the left flank bamboozled Gabriel Heinze in the Marseille penalty area, before Jamel Saihi poked the ball tantalisingly wide.
Marseille, were unrelenting however, dominating possession during that period, but lacked the killer touch with Andre Pierre Gignac’s efforts limited after he picked up a knock, but the French international latched onto a delightful ball from midfield, before working his way into the box, with Valbuena on the end of it. ‘Le Petit Velo’ had opted for precision instead of power, and the diminutive forward could only watch as his effort smacked against the post via a deflection.
Rene Girard’s side threatened before the break, with former Marseille man Garry Bocaly performing an audacious overhead kick and Cyril Jeunechamp going close, but Steve Mandanda held firm and the score remained goalless as the teams trudged back for the half-time interval.
Late strike | Taiwo's winner secured Marseille's Coupe de la Ligue crown
Didier Deschamps’ men raced out of the traps quickly in the second half, and were almost rewarded less than a minute of the restart when Gignac’s in-swinging ball met the powerful head of Andre Ayew, who was thwarted by Pionnier.
Ayew wasted a brilliant opportunity again, when a wonderful delivery from a corner by Valbuena whistled frustratingly wide as the presence of Mapou Yangambiwa and Benjamin Stambouli proved to be a stumbling block in Marseille’s quest for a back-to-back cup success.
The holders’ profligacy was to be targeted when Girard sent on Hasan Kabze, ironically the tournament’s top scorer, to add to his attacking arsenal, whilst in search of a first cup win for 21 years.
It was to be for nothing, however, as an unnecessary foul on Valbuena by Bocaly lead to a dangerous freekick. Cheyrou’s cross was punched down by Pionnier, under the challenge of three OM players, but Taiwo was on hand to fire home a low drive from inside the penalty box in the 81st minute, exactly the same time he netted the winner against Montpellier last week in the league to cap off an improving Marseille performance in the second half.
With the Nigerian left-back looking certain to leave in the summer, his match-winning contribution surely delighted the Marseille faithful, whose radiant supporters inside the Stade de France roared their approval at the breakthrough.
Rene Girard’s men lacked urgency, and failed to probe the OM defence after the goal, and were made to rue what might have been as Deschamps’ side secured their fourth trophy in 12 months.
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