In arguably the best performance of the season, l’OM held on to defeat Nice in a highly contested game. Nice, one of the best teams in France, displayed their impressive passing and speed, but l’OM never waivered. With Thauvin suffering an injury early in game, it fell on Gomis and co. to uphold the mantle of responsibility. In short, the players in White and Sky Blue responded. Continue reading for my analysis.
Scenes from Smithfield Hall, where OMNewYork gathered to watch the game.
L’OM Displays Mental Toughness
L’OM had, prior to tonight, failed to defeat a top-4 Ligue 1 team this season. Throughout the year, it appeared the team lacked the maturity and sang-froid to handle big games. The late 3-2 defeat to Nice in the Fall comes to mind, when OM, up 2-1 with minutes left in the game, let in two late goals to suffer a crushing defeat. Tonight, l’OM suffered early setbacks, but never lost spirit. Sanson missed an excruciatingly easy chance early on, and Thauvin was injured shortly after. These two events had me wondering if we would see another frustrating night where l’OM would fail to pull out a win. After the game, we would hear about the regret and frustration that the team felt, and the cycle would continue. Luckily, I was wrong. L’OM fought back against several Nice attacks in the first half, before a Gomis header put the team ahead (Gomis outjumped the goalkeeper to slot a corner into the side netting). Letting in a goal early in the second half, l’OM and its supporters never gave up, and were rewarded with a diving header goal from Évra. In the past, l’OM would have lost this game. Tonight, the team did what it had to do to get a win.
Former coach Eric Gerets was the guest of honor tonight, and was greeted with a standing ovation.
The Old Guard Steps Up
Throughout the season, the older players on the team have faced intense scrutiny from the fans. Whether it was Gomis, Évra, Pelé, Fanni, or Rolando, the older players were consistently targeted for their age, and their lack of speed. Even Gomis, having scored 18 goals this season, has not escaped the scorching glare of the supporters. Tonight, however, it was the older players who stepped up. Fanni and Rolando displayed solidity in the back, bending but never breaking in the back line and mostly keeping Balotelli in check. Gomis stepped up when the team needed him most, and displayed his relentless work ethic on both offense and defense. Pelé made several big stops, confirming his stability of recent weeks, in front of goal. Above all, the man of the night was Patrice Évra. This season, Évra has been anything but solid. Injuries, poor performances, and off the field controversies have marred his stay in Marseille. Tonight, Évra was solid defensively, energetic, and clinical in front of goal. With Nice’s Ricardo Pereira attacking his wing, Évra won the ball several times and never let the young winger get too much space. He then topped off his performance with a game-winning diving header goal, to put OM up 2-1. His celebration was a bit much (see video below), but who cares! Man of the match – Patrice Évra.
Video highlights from today’s game.
L’OM is Ready for Bordeaux Next Week
It has been 40 years since l’OM has won at Bordeaux. The record has lasted so long that it seems to hang over the fixture like a self-fulfilling prophecy. If there was ever a time to break the curse, it is next week. With l’OM one point ahead of Bordeaux in the standings, this match is an unofficial final. A win for Marseille would guarantee them a Europa Ligue spot next year, offering the chance to play big European teams. A tie or loss against Bordeaux would leave the fate of the 5th place spot to the last week of the season… Now is the time to break the curse and earn Europa Ligue. With the team’s newfound confidence and maturity, I feel that Marseille can march West and leave Bordeaux with 3 points and the 5th place spot. Allez l’OM !
Great to see the Vélodrome sold out and energized.
Pelé – 6.5
Sakai – 7
Fanni – 6
Rolando – 6
Évra – 7.5
Vainqueur – 6
Sanson – 5
Lopez – 6
Payet – 6
Cabella – 6.5
Gomis – 7
Thanks for reading!