Keeping hope alive at Olympique de Marseille is of the utmost importance if it is to keep Rudi Garcia on the books. How do you keep hope alive when you’ve had a season that has gone against the wishes of owner Frank McCourt and his ambitious, if foolhardy Champions Project (which has been revealed to be a misnomer since, as we mentioned earlier on TST, the real champions’ project is up north at the Paris Saint-Germain Football Club)? Statement wins, of course!
And boy, did the likes of the mighty OM need a statement win badly. Before a bumper crowd at the Allianz Riviera and a partisan congregation that threw projectiles of all shapes and sizes at the visitors in vain in the hopes of preventing the inevitable, Marseille smashed Lucien Favre’s OGC Nice 4-2, a victory that bodes well for their first meeting with Paris later this month.
Marseille was led by Lucas Ocampos who scored a brace in the 26th and 44th minutes. Pierre-Lees-Melou had an own goal in the 41st minute and Luis Gustavo added a fourth in the 48th minute. However, he was given his marching orders in the 66th minute after a horror challenge in OM’s defensive third. Nice’s goals came from Mario Balotelli (4′) and Jean Michael Seri (18′).
The stats would normally see Nice win this in a heartbeat. The Eagles dominated possession (67 percent to 33 percent), shots (18 to six), shots on target (five to three), successful passes (90 percent to 75 percent), corners (six to four) and crosses (34 to seven).
1954 – Marseille have scored at least 4 goals away from home v Nice in Ligue 1 for the 1st time since March 1954 (4-2). Feast. pic.twitter.com/LKGWkOw1Wp
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) October 1, 2017
To offset those stats, you needed a big-time goalkeeper, and Marseille’s Steve Mandanda rose to the challenge and had three collections and five saves in one of the best games of his return to the club that made him a legend in France. Adil Rami also had a strong effort with 12 balls won to just five lost. Allan Saint-Maximin underperformed for Nice, losing the ball 17 times. In addition to an own goal, Lees-Melou was worst on ground with 16 balls lost.
In short, Marseille proved to its Cote d’Azur rivals that when its defense is clicking, it can dance with anyone and this result proves to be a key tune-up for the next edition of Le Classique. OM, however will have another couple of tune-up games before the big match on Oct. 22 at the Stade Velodrome. They are away to RC Strasbourg Alsace on Oct. 15 and at home to Vitoria Guimaraes in Europa League play on Oct. 19. Nice are away to Montpelier HSC on Oct. 15 and host Serie A giants SS Lazio on Oct. 19 before hosting Strasbourg on the 22nd.