OM crashes out of Europe in a game that represents the entire season. OM showed rage, determination, and incredible skill, only to fall short at the final whistle. In an electrifying atmosphere, OM outplayed Bilbao for a good part of the game, but will yet again leave with nothing but regret. There is incredible potential in the team, but with the risk of players leaving in the summer, this team is in danger of ending this season empty-handed. Team Review and Ratings to follow.
Nkoudou fighting for the ball against Bilbao. Source – om.net
This performance reveals yet again the polarity of this season. OM came out of the gates dominating the game, hitting the post and forcing great saves from the Bilbao keeper. With chance after chance raining in, Michy eventually scored before the end of the half, giving OM a deserved lead. Less dominant in the second half, OM still created many chances, which were all wasted. Eventually, Bilbao scored in the 81st minute with a counter-attack goal by Merino. While the result was unfair, OM was lucky not to give up two penalties for hand-balls.
In terms of coaching, I feel Michel was yet again frustrating. Expecting extra time, he waited to make changes, which I can understand. However, with OM needing a goal, he put in Thauvin and Alessandrini for Rekik and Manquillo. While I understand the need for offensive firepower, I felt it created its own problem. With these subs, OM had about 7 players in the attacking third. This crowded the attacking third, leaving very little space for anyone to do anything. It also made it easier for Bilbao, as there was little depth in the OM attack. They repelled cross after cross, sitting on the game to end.
Mandanda played well, making a couple good saves. Manquillo played well, back in his normal right flank. He put in many tackles and was able to get involved offensively, offering several great crosses. However, he let Merino in behind him on the goal. Nkoulou was dominant, playing very well throughout the game. He looked like his old self, intercepting many passes and playing the ball out of the back. For his return, Rekik had a great game. He was solid in tackles and cleared most attacks away with ease. Mendy had positives and negatives in his first game back. He worked hard, got involved offensively, but also gave up a lot of free kicks and was beaten down his flank on the Bilbao goal.
Isla and Diarra were both great. They have developed into an incredible duo. Both of them were involved all over the field, providing tough tackles in defense, and circulating the ball forward. Diarra, in particular, is on another level. However, despite their great performances, OM cannot seem to build from these two and get a win.
In the new formation, Michel played Cabella and Nkoudou on the wings, with Fletcher and Michy up top. It worked well, with Cabella and Nkoudou both incredibly dangerous on either flank. Nkoudou almost scored the goal of the year when he took a Mandanda clearance and hit the post from the left flank. Cabella was dangerous, providing incredible dribbling and a few shots. Michy played well, passing better than he ever has and scoring a gritty goal before the end of the half. Fletcher was both exciting and frustrating. His passing and positioning were awesome. Yet, despite having several chances, he failed to score or even danger the keeper. He had two close-range headers go straight into the keeper, and skied the rest. He also lost two opportunities when he failed to control passes and shoot.
Mandanda – 6
Manquillo – 6
Nkoulou – 6.5
Rekik – 6
Mendy – 5
Isla – 6
Diarra – 7
Cabella – 7
Nkoudou – 6
Michy – 6.5
Fletcher – 5.5