OM 2-0 Étoile Sahel: Olympique holds the opposition in check

09 jul 2017
Photos © 
Guillaume Ruoppolo 2017
Despite tough and well-disciplined opposition, the Marseilles side showed good progress. They were rewarded for their efforts with two goals scored by Rolando and Germain.
Even though some of the squad (Payet, Thauvin, Sakaï and Hubocan) were excused for international duties, Olympique Marseille cut an impressive figure for its third pre-season friendly, bringing together two of its new recruits, Valère Germain and the Brazilian, Luiz Gustavo, for the first time. The opposing team for the evening, L'Etoile Sportive du Sahel looked, on paper, ready to put up a good fight. That was the aim. Match after match, Rudi Garcia can assess the progress made by his squad in terms of physical fitness, tactics, and technical ability, ready for the qualifying rounds of the Europa League in late July.
Following the match against Sion, the Tunisians - who are in the advanced stages of their pre-season training - gave Maxime Lopez (promoted to captain for the evening) and his team mates a tough time. More commitment, more impact, more intensity, more rhythm - and less space. Logically, the job at hand was tougher than ever. Nonetheless, Olympique successfully opened the scoring, with Rolando taking them 1-0 up in the fifth minute from a well-aimed corner kick by Lopez. Olympique then managed to hold off their opponents despite a Tunisian fightback. The combination of Sanson, Lopez, Germain and Cabella worked well, but not well enough to knock Etoie's defence off balance. Hubert Velud's team maintained the initiative. They managed three or four clear shots on goal. Like Haj Hassen's powerful shot, repelled by a two-handed save by Pelé in the eighth minute, then with the penalty awarded in the 20th minute following an early challenge by the same Yohan Pelé - but Lahmar's daring chip went over the bar.
The Tunisians kept up intense physical pressure on the Marseilles team, holding them back with multiple consecutive corners to force their defence, in excellent formation around their net, to maintain extreme vigilance. Their physiques were put to a tough test under oppressive heat. Relief arrived in dribs and drabs.
A single change after half time, with Clinton N'Jie replacing Ocampos. The match played out in much the same way as before.  On the one hand, a solid Tunisian side that was difficult to dislodge, with an OM that was making good progress at the cost of digging deep into their reserves to keep their opponents off the scoreboard. The same applied to Luiz Gustavo who, during nearly an hour on the pitch, showed hints of excellence despite being far off his optimal physical form. It was also the case for Valère Germain who gave his team some breathing space, being in the right place to finish off a cross from N'Jie in the 61st minute, taking the score to 2-0. The same pairing could have finished off the Tunisians' ambitions a few minutes later, but the Cameroonian missed an opportunity following a cross from the former Monaco player in the 65th minute.
Twenty minutes from the end, both sides made multiple changes. Just before N'Jie took a chance from far out in the 73rd minute, but his long kick missed the mark. As the minutes ticked away, the pace of the match faded somewhat, except for the latest entrants on the pitch, who showed their freshness. With both managers keen to preserve their teams' fitness, they allowed the clock to tick away until the final curtain. The shape of the match, and the final score, didn't change any further.
Three victories out of three matches for Olympique, without its international players, and showing clear progress.
OM: PeléEvra (Rocchia, 69), Doria (Bedimo, 81), Rolando (Fanni, 69), Sarr  (Abdallah, 81) – Luiz Gustavo (Kamara, 58) – Sanson (Khaoui, 81), Lopez (Chabrolles, 81)  – Cabella (Zakouni, 81), Germain (Sari, 69), Ocampos (N’Jie, 46)

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