OM 1-0 (AET) Valenciennes: OM take their time to get through to the next round

sun 07 jan at 16:45
Frédéric Rostain
Photos © 
Roland Grunchec - Nicolas Copin - Helios Image - OM
Rudi Garcia had wanted to qualify for the next round without the match going to extra time. The first part of the challenge was successfully accomplished, but his players needed 120 minutes to knock Valenciennes out of the Coupe de France at the last-64 stage.

A new year, and a new formation for OM for this first match of 2018. Against Valenciennes, Rudi Garcia elected to play a 4-4-2 formation, with Germain and Mitroglou up front, Payet and N'Jie on the wings, and Gustavo and Lopez as defensive midfielders. The Marseille coach kept faith with his usual back four however.
The first match of the year always has a particular flavour to it, particularly in the Coupe de France, a competition in which the small clubs very often have their sights set on being giant killers. In the role of David, Valenciennes put in a valiant effort, and more than held their own against Goliath. Though currently lying a little below mid-table in France's Domino's Ligue 2, Valenciennes nevertheless showed themselves to be worthy opponents. Trainer Reginald Ray's men played their hearts out: Mothiba, on his own in the six-yard box, just missed the target; Nangis' oblique shot from the side needed Mandanda's foot to keep it out, and Mauricio's attempt went over the top. But it was in defence where the men from the North of France really excelled, with the Olympiens facing a brick wall in the form of Valenciennes' rear-guard for more than an hour and a half.
In the 9th minute, Payet took a direct shot from a free kick which Perquis could only knock away to the side, but the follow up shot by N'Jie was again kept out by the Valenciennes keeper. N'Jie, who was having a very busy and active game, saw his shot tipped over by the keeper. OM dominated the play and had the bulk of the possession, but time and time again came up against the impenetrable wall of the men in red's defence. The two rows of four were playing very tightly together, and this had the effect of reducing the amount of space available. In the final quarter hour of the second half Gustavo had two chances to break the deadlock. On the first occasion he got himself in a tangle when dribbling the ball, and on the second he missed the target. Marseille's best chance came just before the break. N'Jie found Mitroglou with a cross. The Greek player, positioned just out from the goal, failed to control the ball and ended up having to play back away from the net just when it looked as if he had a clear sight on the target.

The match continued in the second half as it had in the first half. OM dominated but didn't manage to score. And Valenciennes played on the counter. Payet had the opposing defence on edge again with a free kick. Lopez penetrated the lines then played a pass out to Germain in space, but the attacker's shot ended up going wide. And time was counting against the Olympiens. First Thauvin then Zambo Anguissa came on as subs. The men from the North, still uncompromisingly resilient at the back, were increasingly gaining in confidence and self belief. Both Mothiba and Ciss – in that order – had attempts that tested Mandanda, who was in impeccable form in this very first match of the new year. In the dying seconds of normal time, and as a result of a defensive error, Germain had a chance to finally put the 25,000 Marseille supporters' minds at rest, but his shot went straight at Perquis, who was able to get behind it and stop it going in.

Marseille's domination was even more marked in the extra time period. The Olympiens were increasingly getting the upper hand in physical terms. And this ended up paying off. Though Germain missed the target after having been played in by Zambo Anguissa, Amavi didn't need to be asked twice to finally break the deadlock when given the chance to do so by a cross from N'Jie. Having arrived at Marseille last summer, this was the defender's very first goal for the club. The Orange Vélodrome could finally breathe a sigh of relief. Rudi Garcia's men continued to push forward after this, leading to the creation of a number of clear-cut chances for Payet, Gustavo and N'Jie.  But it was Amavi's goal that was the deciding factor that in the end took OM into the last 32 of the Coupe de France.

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