Coupe de la Lige Fixtures & Results
Olympique de Marseille are Coupe de la Ligue champions, having dethroned Girondins de Bordeaux in emphatic style in Paris on Saturday evening.
After a rather dull first period, the game came to life when Souleymane Diawara, a former Girondins player, thumped home a Lucho Gonzalo corner. From there, les Phoceens went from strength-to-strength, adding a second strike from Matthieu Valbuena. A Matthieu Chalme own goal took the game away from Laurent Blanc’s side, before Ludovic Sane’s late response.
Cup finals are often tight affairs in the early stages of the game, and this was certainly no different. Hatem Ben Arfa and Yoann Gourcuff fought for supremacy over the opposition defence, but neither could seriously fashion a good opening over the course of the opening 45 minutes, though both were their respective team’s most influential offensive players.
Typically, les Girondins bossed the ball, but both defences were standing impressively firm, with neither side eager to over-commit players into attacking situations. Brandao was featuring as the spearhead of OM’s offence, and it was he who would enjoy the better openings for les Phoceens during the first period. Getting the better of Benoit Tremoulinas after quarter of an hour, he directed a header downwards, though it totally lacked the venom to beat Bordeaux stand-in goalkeeper Ulrich Rame.
A better opening would present itself to the Brazilian on 32 minutes. Laurent Blanc’s side were caught napping at the back for once, allowing Mamadou Niang to cleverly hook the ball over his right shoulder to Brandao, who was unmarked in the right channel. With time to steady himself, the former Shakhtar Donetsk man opened his body up and aimed for the far post. Rame was down smartly to get a decisive fingertip to the ball, though that was not spotted by referee Stephane Lannoy, who had earlier been crowded by both sets of players after Lucho Gonzalez had been the recipient of two thumping tackles in the opening 15 minutes.
For their part, Bordeaux offered little as an attacking force, enjoying plenty of the ball but doing precious little with it. Yoann Gourcuff did muster a threatening effort from the edge of the area, but Mandanda watched it well.
After the restart there was precious little to get the fans excited in the initial stages of the second period. However, that dramatically changed on the hour when Lucho’s corner kick was thumped into the net by Diawara.
Too Strong | Les Phoceens finally taste success
Suddenly the game opened up, though this seemed to favour the exuberant Provence side, who would quickly add to their lead after shrugging off les Girondins’ initial backlash. Ben Arfa would become increasing influential in OM’s side, and after teasing a couple of defenders in the Bordeaux box, he laid a pass back that invited Valbuena to smash the ball past Rame and into the roof of the net.
Visibly winded, Bordeaux began to think of their midweek Champions League encounter against Olympique Lyonnais, withdrawing Gourcuff and Chamakh. With their two star players off the field, les Girondins struggled to create offensively and would quickly ship a third goal when Chalme’s slash at a Valbuena free kick beat Rame at his near post.
Blanc’s side didn’t capitulate, pushing forward until the very end, though risking much as Marseille countered. They even managed to pull a goal back in typical fashion, with Wendel’s free kick thumped into the net by the forehead of Sane.
Les Phoceens were the more dangerous side in the closing stages, a couple of dangerous Tremoulinas aside. Jaroslav Plasil actually hit the post from the left-back’s final centre, though once that had bounced to safety, it was clear the game was up for les Girondins.
Mamadou Niang was therefore able to lift the Coupe de la Ligue aloft for the first time in Marseille’s history, ending a chronic success-starved period that dates back almost two decades. With this psychological boost, Didier Deschamps’ men will now be thinking about stealing Bordeaux’s Ligue 1 crown.
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