Thu, Dec 22, 2011 - Page 19 News List

Marseille down Nancy to close gap on leaders

AFP, PARIS

Marseille’s Mathieu Valbuena, front, jumps for the ball with Nancy’s Jordan Loties during their match at the Stade Marcel Picot in Tomblaine, France, on Tuesday.

Photo: AFP

Olympique de Marseille, France’s only former European champions, broke provisionally into the top five in Ligue 1 on Tuesday after a 3-1 win at AS Nancy-Lorraine which closed the gap on leaders Montpellier Herault and Paris Saint-Germain to six points.

Didier Deschamps’ side, champions in 2009-2010, made a poor start to the season, but they have since begun to string some form together and it was their sixth win in their past eight league games.

Deschamps, who captained the side to their 1993 European Cup victory, said that he was happy with their having recovered some of the ground they lost at the start of the season.

“We have slightly righted the ship,” he said. “Our bad streak in August and September is the difference between us and those ahead of us, but since mid-October we have more or less taken the points we required. However, we can’t go back over the beginning of the season. We have often had our backs against the wall and the team has always responded.”

Stylish midfielder Mathieu Valbuena gave Marseille an 18th-minute lead with a low drive after an interchange with Loic Remy, but Nancy, struggling to keep out of the bottom five with only one win in 10 home outings, leveled through Reynald Lemaitre, who bundled in from close range eight minutes before the break to rouse the 20,000 crowd at the Stade Marcel Picot.

The home faithfuls’ hopes were dashed, however, as just four minutes later Cameroon star Stephane Mbia headed home a tailor-made cross from Morgan Amalfitano.

Marseille were turning the screw and, after having an effort ruled out for offside, it fell to Lucho Gonzalez, set up by Valbuena, to complete the win with a near-post finish at the death.

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