Mar­seille faced with an­other set­back af­ter loss to Nantes

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY ANDY SCOTT

Mar­seille’s slump con­tin­ued on Fri­day as Marcelo Bielsa’s side went down to a 1-0 de­feat at Nantes that fur­ther dam­aged their hopes of qual­i­fy­ing for next sea­son’s Cham­pi­ons League.

Serge Gakpe scored the only goal of the game in the 20th minute at a packed Stade de la Beau­joire fol­low­ing a de­fen­sive mix-up as Nantes claimed a win that moves them a step closer to se­cur­ing top-flight sur­vival.

But Mar­seille, af­ter los­ing to Paris Saint-Ger­main and Bordeaux in the last two weeks, racked up a third con­sec­u­tive de­feat, their worst se­quence of re­sults in Ligue 1 since Oc­to­ber 2013.

As a con­se­quence, OM re­main in fourth place, a point be­hind Monaco in the third and fi­nal qual­i­fy­ing berth for next sea­son’s Cham­pi­ons League.

In­deed, they could end the week­end in fifth if Saint-Eti­enne win at lead­ers Lyon on Sun­day evening.

“Things are go­ing against us but we need to lift our heads now and turn things around,” de­fender Ni­co­las Nk­oulou told beIN Sports.

“It is a del­i­cate and dif­fi­cult time but there are still games to play. We have to look for­ward now, that’s all.”

Bielsa claimed this week that his side re­mained the best team in the coun­try, but from be­ing top of the ta­ble at Christ­mas, Mar­seille have won just four times in 14 league games in 2015.

Against Nantes, they were with­out suspended play­maker Dim­itri Payet so Michy Batshuayi started just be­hind An­dre-Pierre Gignac, who was con­tin­u­ing his search for his 100th Ligue 1 goal.

How­ever, Batshuayi missed one great chance in the first half, blaz­ing over af­ter Remy Riou had pushed out a low Brice Dja Djedje cross, while he also had a goal dis­al­lowed for off­side.

By that time Nantes were al­ready in front. A team that had scored just six times in 13 matches in 2015 clearly needed a hand when it came to putting the ball in the net and that is ex­actly what hap­pened 20 min­utes in.

There ap­peared to be lit­tle dan­ger when OM goal­keeper Steve Man­danda played a square pass across his box to Rod Fanni.

How­ever, Fanni caught his ‘keeper out by giv­ing him a first-time pass back. Man­danda slipped and Gakpe was left with an easy fin­ish.

Franck Ribery and Samir Nasri played the last time Mar­seille won in Nantes, in April 2006, and they were un­able to find a way back into the game in the sec­ond half.

There was a late rally, but An­dre Ayew was booked for div­ing in the box as the vis­i­tors ap­pealed in vain for a penalty.

Then, in the third minute of stop­page time, Fanni thought he had made up for his ear­lier er­ror when he headed to­wards goal, but Riou in­ter­vened with a su­perb save, tip­ping the ball onto the bar.

Lyon are two points clear at the top from Paris Saint-Ger­main, who go to Nice on Satur­day lick­ing their wounds af­ter their 3-1 Cham­pi­ons League quar­ter­fi­nal first-leg de­feat to Barcelona in mid­week.

Monaco can strengthen their grip on third by beat­ing Rennes on Satur­day be­fore they look to over­turn a 1-0 first-leg deficit when they host Ju­ven­tus in the sec­ond leg of their Cham­pi­ons League quar­ter­fi­nal next week.

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