In the recent match between Marseille and Nantes at the Stade Velodrome, the visitors took a shock lead after catching the hosts unawares but an improved second-half showing paved the way for an equaliser in stoppage time.
Marseille came into the match on the back of a three-game losing skid and Rudi Garcia knew his side needed to improve in order to get a result against Les Canaris. Claudio Ranieri patterned his side’s play like of his former club Leicester and they couldn’t have had a better start when Leo Dubois fired them into the lead after just eleven minutes.
Ranieri then organised his side to sit back and protect their one-goal advantage, once a while threatening on set pieces. Initially, Marseille struggled against Nantes’ two blocks of four. Their creative players are used to getting onto the ball, and coupled with a lack of threat of getting in behind, this situation played into the visitors’ hands as they are a well-drilled defensive side.
However, Marseille played more incisively after the restart, increasing their work rate on and off the ball. They pushed Nantes further and further back into their own half. They had a couple of chances to draw level but only took it in stoppage time through Florian Thauvin who was lively throughout.
— Ligue1 English (@Ligue1_ENG) March 4, 2018
Les Canaris show excellence in mid-bloc defence
As mentioned earlier, with Ranieri at the helm, Nantes play a sit back and counter approach. The Italian manager set his side up to defend right in the mid-block at a fluid 4-2-4 shape. The two at the middle of the first line, Emiliano Sala and Valentin Rongier pressed only when the centrebacks ventured into their pressing zone (mid-bloc edge).
Additionally, when in their neutral position, the two forwards resembled a natural man-marking approach on Marseille’s double pivot of Luiz Gustavo and Andre-Frank Zambo-Anguissa. As soon as the two forwards press the centrebacks, Nantes’ two central midfielders (Rene Krhin and Andrei Girotto) push forward to resume man-marking duties against Gustavo and Zambo-Anguissa.
On the other hand, their two wingers (Joris Kayembe and Lucas Lima) assumed the task of keeping the Marseille fullbacks (Jordan Amavi and Bouna Sarr) in check. Marseille boss Garcia likes his two fullbacks pushed high and wide when attacking, but in the first half, Kayembe and Lima did reasonably well enough in nullifying their threat. Overall, Nantes were a defensively organised, well-drilled side that made it difficult for Marseille to move the ball into the central axis.
Nantes grab early advantage
The breakthrough came very early when Les Canaris bombed forward with a sense of urgency that caught Marseille off-guard. Dubois started the assault on Steve Mandanda’s goal. He teed up Sala in the box but while Adil Rami blocked the Argentine’s strike, Marseille looked second best in recovering the loose balls. After a wild scramble in the box, Dubois finished the move he started with a thunderous strike into the far corner.
Pour le plaisir, la mine de @leodubois15 sous tous les angles 💥
— FC Nantes (@FCNantes) March 5, 2018
After the goal, Nantes only had sporadic forays on the offensive end, with Sala acting as a long-ball outlet. In one instance, the Argentine should have tested Mandanda again. He chested up a glorious Lima ball but failed to cleanly hit his strike.
As the hosts struggled to break down Nantes’ defence, the visitors almost doubled their lead when they caught Marseille half-asleep again. Down the left-hand side, Nantes won the high and second balls, and it effectively only took four touches to release Lima down the left-hand side. Fortunately for Marseille, Mandanda swatted Sala’s effort away before Amavi blocked Dubois’ follow up.
Les Olympiens improve in possession
Soon after, Marseille finally responded. Their play relied on Thauvin as the premiere source of creativity down the right-hand side. Initially, Nantes did well in neutralising the threat of the French winger. Chidozie Awaziem heavily marked the winger down the right flank while Nantes regularly pressed that zone. Thauvin regularly took on defenders and due to that, received heavy treatment from Nantes who fouled him on a consistent basis. In one occasion, the winger even moved to the left flank to connect with Dimitri Payet and find any openings in the pockets.
#L1Wk28 reactions UPDATE: @FlorianThauvin thrilled that persistence paid off in tough night at the office; @FCNantes boss Claudio #Ranieri happy with the point from the 1-1 draw the #Vélodrome: https://t.co/LxNwRISGLL pic.twitter.com/Yzkfw1D262
— Ligue1 English (@Ligue1_ENG) March 5, 2018
While the Marseille frontline’s tendency to move towards the ball instead of making runs in behind made it easier for the Nantes defence, Marseille’s play gradually developed. The hosts made crisper passes and carried more intent in the final third. Their fullbacks began pushing high up the pitch. This enabled Marseille to execute a sustained period of dominance in the Nantes half. Their best chance in this period came through Thauvin who headed a Payet freekick just wide.
Marseille pull up weight and equalise in stoppage time
The hosts worked the ball on the edge of the final third as Nantes closed down pockets of space outside the box. Morgan Sanson started making runs in behind the Nantes rearguard to vertically stretch their defence. Additionally, Marseille increased their work rate in the middle, showing more oomph on 50-50 challenges. It resulted in a couple of chances for them. Payet went for a couple of spectacular efforts. First, a bicycle kick that Ciprian Tatarusanu saved and then a side volley that just missed the top corner. Thauvin also unleashed a low strike that the keeper did well to hold onto.
Garcia decided to change things up with just less than a half hour to go. The Marseille boss made a double substitution, introducing Lucas Ocampos and Maxime Lopez on for Sanson and Zambo-Anguissa. As Nantes dropped really deep to defend, they gave up more territory for Marseille to work on for an equaliser. With Sanson, who made runs in behind earlier, now off, Marseille reverted to playing in front of Nantes. But while Marseille lacked off-ball penetration, they now probed closer to the Nantes goal.
Marseille really should have drawn level after Valere Germain looped a ball intended for Payet. However, his teammate Gustavo got in the way. It took the hosts until the 5th minute of stoppage time to finally breach Nantes’ goal. A Payet freekick caused havoc in the box. And as Nantes failed to clear, Thauvin pounced, poking home.
With Mandanda watching on, Thauvin earned a point in dramatic fashion for Marseille! pic.twitter.com/eBJzmGDB1W
— Goal (@goal) March 4, 2018
Nantes went furious as they argued the goal shouldn’t have stood. Before the goal, replays showed Gustavo appear to trip Nicolas Pallois who was about to clear the ball. However, the referee allowed the goal to stand and the Stade Velodrome erupted into a fit of frenzy.