The Olympiens did everything to break down the visiting Rennes side; centres, long passes, shots from distance. In vain. They couldn’t make the break against a virtually impregnable Rennes defence. Even though Simon Pouplin hardly had an easy night of it; though Rennes’ defensive curtain turned back many of OM’s assaults, several managed to get through. Without success, although sometimes there was hardly anything in it. Like in the 32nd minute when Karim Ziani’s shot hit the post and bounced out after a superb piece of play by Samir Nasi (pictured).
Earlier in the match the Vél had come to its feet after an acrobatic volley from Boudewijn Zenden, set up by Djibril Cissé’s flicked-on header.
The OM fans also had some nervous moments when Pierre Dréossi’s side exploded on the counter, notably through livewire forward Jimmy Briand.
But the Marseillais clawed back the advantage every time and finished the first half with a scoring chance. Bonnart (who started on the left flank in a promising combination with Zenden) lost his man and crossed for Cissé, who fired narrowly over the bar (38’).
At the break, Samir Nasri made way for Mathieu Valbuena after feeling some tightness in his quadriceps. Fortunately, like in Strasbourg, the man whose team-mates call him the ‘Little Bicycle’ brought vivacity and ideas to OM’s game. And it was called for to try to crack the solid Breton XI, whose striker Pagis was replaced by Thomert. The Marseillais as a unit brought all their resources to bear on the situation, egged on by their fans, and piled the pressure on the Rennes defence. And it could have turned out beautifully for the Phocaeans, so close to scoring the all-important goal. But the goal didn’t come and OM had to share the points ahead of their trip to Valenciennes on Wednesday and the visit of Nancy on Sunday. An attentive observer in the second half, Samir Nasri summed the match up: “When we’ve got our attacking moves running well, we can do some serious damage.”