Football

Marseille still chasing Champions League dream

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Marseille made a statement of intent and brought the fight for third place, and Champions League football next year, to the final day of the Ligue 1 season after a stunning display against Lille.

Andre-Pierre Gignac scored the first in only the third minute, as he slotted home Enyeama's parry inside the box, thanks to some sleepy defending from Lille - for them the season appears to already be over. The second top scorer in the league has been the subject of transfer rumours for weeks now, and some will be questioning whether it is the last he will score for the Marseillais.

The second goal came courtesy of a bullet header from Rod Fanni (real name), who was found on the six-yard line from a corner.

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ALESSANDRINI AND AYEW

Lille only managed two shots on goal in the whole game, and all goals conceded were heavily self-inflicted. Marseille were made to feel even more comfortable in the second half when they found the net again in the 70th minute, thanks in no small part to Sidibe's indifferent defending.

Andre Ayew and Romain Alessandrini have been impressive all season for l'OM, and they teamed up when Ayew made a probing run and picked out Alessandrini moving past the defence with an insightful sliding pass. For some reason Sidibe elected not to track the Frenchman's run, despite it being clearly dangerous and with his defence wide open at the time. All that was left for the Marseille attacker was to clinically drive it past the keeper, which he did with conviction.

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And six minutes later it was Ayew who would make all in a stunningly beautiful move.  Once again Marseille made a questioning attack towards the Lillois box, and Imbulla played an ever so light, and slightly hospital, pass on to his team-mate. But all the work was done by Ayew. His first touch, made at the last possible moment, put the ball past the defender and he used his body and momentum to get into a goalscoring position.

His second touch though was sublime.  At full stretch, and with the keeper bearing down on him, Ayew managed to play a looping chip with the outside of his left boot, which sailed past the helpless keeper and into the back of the net for 4-0. There was something very reminiscent of Thierry Henry in the way he took that chance, and the finish.

Both of these players have done enough to catch the eye of many a manager in Europe, and it will be interesting to see what kind of attention they will get during the summer.

Bielsa praised his team for the emphatic victory, ranking it above all others this season: "This was one of our best games of the season. Almost all of the players played at a very good level, the attack was effective and the defence strong."

ROAD TO EUROPE

PSG have already won their eighth league title in a row this year, as well as one of the domestic cups (they also play in the other cup on 30th May), so Marseille and Saint-Etienne are definitely guaranteed European football next year. However, with AS Monaco just two points ahead of them in third, all is still to play for on the final day of fixtures, Saturday 23rd May.

Saint-Etienne ensured they stayed in the race with a 2-1 win against recently-relegated Evian. If Monaco lose their final match, then it could go to Marseille, and if they draw or lose, Saint-Etienne will be in with a chance of stealing it.

For their final match, AS Monaco will now be set to travel to Lorient, who have recently avoided relegation.  It is ironic and very interesting that Monaco will play the return leg of their very first fixture of this season. And that first game was the scene of a great upset when Lorient beat the southeners 2-1 in Monaco, way back in August. Meanwhile, as all games will kick off at 9pm (local) on Saturday, Marseille and Saint-Etienne both host mid-table teams with debatably nothing to play for.

It is almost inconceivable that Monaco could lose out when they are so close to securing third, but it could be Marseille who have the easier time of it next weekend. Lorient could be looking to end a disappointing season on a high by claiming another scalp, and therefore a double win over a team with infinitely more funds behind them.

STILL HOPE FOR MARSEILLE?

If Marseille are going to stand a chance of winning the final Champions League spot, they are going to need Monaco to hand it to them. Or just a little help from Lorient. And although that seems unlikely, when the teams line up next weekend you can expect the Velodrome in Marseille to be filled with an electric atmosphere, and scenes which will reflect those of last week, when they beat Monaco 2-1.

Marcelo Bielsa summed up how close the prize is for l'OM: "Finishing third depends on one more game, but we still have hope. Third has been within our grasp all season so we will be very disappointed if we don't manage it."

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Topics:
Football
AS Monaco
Transfer News
Ligue 1
Paris Saint-Germain
Marseille

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