Sun, Mar 09, 2014 - Page 18 News List

Struggling Nice outwit Marseille

SLIPPERY SLOPE:Marseille squandered their chances at goal to lose to lowly Nice for the third time this season, putting their Champions League hopes in jeopardy

AFP, PARIS

Olympique de Marseille’s Andre Ayew, right, jumps to head the ball with Nice’s Romain Genevois during their Ligue 1 match at the Velodrome Stadium in Marseille, France, on Friday.

Photo: Reuters

French giants Olympique de Marseille’s hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League suffered a huge blow with a 1-0 defeat at home to struggling OGC Nice in the Cote d’Azur derby on Friday.

Marseille coach Jose Anigo had complained before the game about the quick turnaround just 48 hours after Wednesday’s international friendlies.

His fears proved justified, as the former European champions produced a poor display and fell to Valentin Eysseric’s sumptuous 66th-minute free-kick.

However, he insisted the lack of suspended striker Andre-Pierre Gignac played a greater role.

“We knew it would be like this, a lot of players only came back yesterday [Thursday]. That penalized us, but Andre-Pierre Gignac missing was a factor,” Anigo told Canal Plus Sport.

“We’re not dependent on one player, but with our system he’s important and when he’s not there it’s difficult to replace him,” he added.

The result left Marseille six points off third place and the final Champions League qualifying position, while depending on other results this weekend, they could drop as low as seventh by tonight.

For Nice, who last season were battling for a place in the top three, this much-needed victory eased their relegation concerns and pushed them up to 11th for the time being, and 12 points clear of the drop zone.

It was their third win over their neighbors this season after a 1-0 success at home in the league and 5-4 win in the cup.

“This win here is not undeserved. We created chances, we let the storm pass in the first half and we weren’t in danger in the second half,” Nice coach Claude Puel said.

“We’ve had so many disappointments [this season], so many matches that ended badly that it’s important finally for this group to earn their reward,” he added.

Although Marseille, who were missing first-choice forward Andre-Pierre Gignac, dominated for long spells of the game, particularly in the first half, Nice arguably had the best chances.

Dario Cvitanich snatched at an opportunity presented to him in the first 20 seconds following an appalling back pass from Andre Ayew, firing well over.

On the stroke of halftime Eric Bautheac lost his cool when presented with a sight of goal from 12m, volleying well over the bar.

In between, the hosts kept Nice goalkeeper David Ospina busy with efforts from distance, although he never looked like being beaten.

He saved two efforts from Dimitri Payet and one each from Ayew and Florian Thauvin, who also headed another chance wide, while Benoit Cheyrou was also off target with a speculative shot that failed to make an impression.

Substitute Saber Khelifa came closest after the break for Marseille, but Ospina was once again equal to a rare shot on target.

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