Sunday’s Ligue 1 action saw two out of form teams go head-to-head, as third-placed Marseille looked to get back to winning ways against heavily struggling Troyes at the Stade Velodrome.
OM: Lopez; Mbemba, Gigot, Kolasinac, Clauss, Kabore, Veretout, Rongier, Vitinha, Under, Sanchez
ESTAC: Gallon; Palmer-Brown, Rami, Salmier, T. Balde, Kouame, Chavalerin, Larouci, Lopes, Odobert, M. Balde
It was clear Marseille wanted to start on the front foot from the first whistle, after their disappointing 0-0 draw with Lorient last week, and they were rewarded straight for their positive approach.
With the game barely a minute old, Vitinha – who joined from Sporting Braga in January – managed to smartly turn in the box after the ball broke loose, and fired a right footed shot past Gallon into the roof of the net to open the scoring.
Minutes later, Vitinha was again in the thick of the action, after he forced a good save by Gallon around ten yards from goal. The Portuguese forward had a third chance with ten minutes played, as he somehow managed to miss the target from inside the six yard box, although he may have been in an offside position.
For their sake, Troyes needed to steady the ship after a frantic start. Veteran defender and captain Adil Rami looked to instil some form of calmness – particularly at the back.
Despite Troyes’ best attempts at resistance, Marseille continued to pile on the pressure. With 20 minutes on the clock, Cengiz Under started to find some joy drifting in from the right wing and sent a curling shot narrowly wide of the far post. The game was becoming too easy for Marseille to dictate, as the Olympians enjoyed the majority of possession in front of a packed out Velodrome, where the pyrotechnics were on full show.
Burkina Faso right-wing back Issa Kabore – on loan at Marseille from Manchester City – expertly trapped the ball in the box after being picked out by Alexis Sanchez before finding space for an attempt, but Gallon was alert and bravely pounced on the ball to prevent any further damage.
As the first half went on, Troyes were adamant on getting as many men behind the ball as possible, hoping to at least get to the interval just one goal behind. But five minutes before the break, Marseille midfielder Valentin Rongier dispossessed Lucien Agoume deep in the Troyes half and played Under in, who managed to bend the ball with his left foot past Gallon to double the hosts lead.
Marseille were fully deserving of their halftime advantage after they created an array of chances, and it looked to be a long night for Patrick Kisnorbo’s side. The restart began very much like the first half, as Vitinha came agonisingly close to a brace, but his chipped effort went wide. It was obvious that the Troyes side were lacking in confidence, which was emphasised every time Marseille ventured forward to mount another attack.
Troyes resorted to committing numerous fouls – Sanchez in particular was on the receiving end of a few strong challenges. Agoume was the first player to go into referee Benoit Millot’s book after he left the Chilean on the deck in some pain.
Marseille appeared to be understandably content with both the scoreline and the way the game was being played, as the action started to be played at a much slower tempo. However, the hosts knew at any given moment they could create openings for more goals, as they pressed forward once more with just over 25 minutes remaining.
After a corner was swung in by Under, Sead Kolasinac connected with a header that struck the woodwork. The ball fell kindly for Vitinha who tapped in from close range to make it 3-0, wrapping up proceedings.
Troyes captain Rami was substituted shortly after, which was a dismal evening for the experienced Frenchman, but he was applauded by the Marseille fans who showed him the respect he has earned over his long and distinguished career.
With the win secured, Marseille made several changes as the game approached the last 15 minutes. Former Manchester United defender Eric Bailly got some minutes under his belt, whilst there was also time for midfielders Ruslan Malinovskyi and Dimitri Payet to feature.
There was time for Troyes to get a consolation, after Mama Balde managed to burst through the Marseille defence following a run from his own half, before beating Pau Lopez – who appeared furious at not keeping a clean sheet.
The result puts Marseille into second place, eight points behind leaders Paris Saint-Germain, as they will now look to get a firm grip on an automatic Champions League place. As for Troyes, the defeat leaves them in 18th, ten points adrift of safety, and it looks to be a worrying last seven games ahead for them in their fight for survival.