The first major blow in the reign of Didier Deschamps as head coach of Olympique de Marseille was landed on Saturday evening by Valenciennes, who triumphed 3-2 in their Ligue 1 fixture.
OM twice went ahead in the first half – Fernando Morientes and Mamadou Niang scoring – but VA hit back through defenders Milan Bisevac and David Ducourtioux. When Rafael nodded the late winner, it completed a remarkable hat-trick for the home defence, and setup the shock result of the campaign thus far.
A remarkable first half saw the sides share four goals in a remarkable 15 minute burst. Aside from the excitement of the goals, there were actually remarkably few chances in a pretty entertaining period of football.
Marseille had made the better of the early running, with Lucho Gonzalez and Morientes combining to released Niang, who was denied by young Valenciennes custodian Guy Ndy Assembe, who was quick from his goal to stifle the danger.
However, only five minutes later the on-loan Nantes shot-stopper was plucking the ball from his net after some neat work from Lucho left the home rearguard flat-footed. Brandao sped down the left onto the Argentine’s pass and sent a low centre into the box, which Morientes gobbled up with relish to record his first OM goal on his first start.
Valenciennes were quick to respond, and it took them only seven minutes to draw level. A corner kick fell to Rafael, whose half-volley from the penalty spot was saved by Steve Mandanda, who made a fine reflex block, but the ball dropped kindly to Bisevac, who powered the ball into the empty net.
No sooner had the buzz from the goal subsided from the home fans, Marseille were back ahead, registering on their very next surge forward. Senegalese forward Niang matched Bisevac’s instincts in the box, quickly jumping onto the rebound after Ndy Assembe had made an initial block from a Morientes header.
This remarkable spell of football was not over, though. Johann Audel was enjoying a terrific game down the left flank and it would be his centre that was matched by a fine diving header by Ducourtioux, who guided the ball into the net to level matters.
OM were clearly winded by this goal, and head coach Didier Deschamps would not be slow to show his agitation on the bench.
Whatever ‘DD’ said in the changing room, it would only have a limited effect on his players, who continued to toil somewhat after the break. Marseille would enjoy a greater share of possession, but they were more limited in terms of the openings they found.
Stoical defending was largely responsible for keeping the score level, with Rafael enjoying a rugged yet effective evening in the heart of the home back four.
Indeed, it would take until after the hour mark for les Phoceens to truly threaten again, with Niang hitting over and Lucho’s speculator also travelling above the home crossbar.
Audel continued to cause headaches for the hosts on the break, firing a strong half-volley at goal that was well repelled by Mandanda.
However, OM looked the more likely side to snatch a winning goal, with Brandao’s movement carrying him beyond the home defence, though his first-time shot was off-target.
And with seven minutes remaining, the tale took a massive and decisive twist. Renaud Cohade’s free kick into the box was met positively by the forehead of Rafael, whose well-placed header left Mandanda helpless and guided VA into a shock lead.
For the final minutes of the game the pressure on the hosts was intense, but a Mathieu Valbuena shot that flew over aside, there were relatively few scares for VA.
Marseille’s first loss on the road in Ligue 1 for over a year will be considered a great set-back at this stage of the season, particularly as they have to swiftly recover to play rampant Real Madrid in midweek. However, Valenciennes are strong opponents at the Stade Nungesser, and they will hope this kick starts their campaign.
Robin Bairner, Goal.com