For all the pre-match compliments between the two managers, Saturday evening’s clash between Lens and Marseille, with Champions League football on the line, was anything but a deferential affair. In a characteristically fiery Stade Bollaert, Lens were able to snatch second place back from the visitors, who were unable to continue their impressive record away from home.
The match more than lived up to its billing, as a high-intensity first half saw a flurry of chances at both ends and tempers flare both on and off the pitch. The visitors looked to have taken an early lead through Alexis Sánchez, but the Chilean’s strike was ruled out by referee Clément Turpin for a push on Kevin Danso.
The tension would only rise from then on – from Facundo Medina kicking the ball at the Marseille bench, to Igor Tudor getting booked for his sideline protests. Eventually, it was the hosts who would break the deadlock – captain Séko Fofana curling a long-range strike past López, having previously been denied by the post from a similar position.
With Alexis Sánchez coming off injured, Tudor’s men saw their attacking potential blunted in the second half. Lens, though, kept pushing on and double their lead when Frankowski fended off Nuno Tavares to send a high cross to the back post for Openda to head in his 19th of the season. Dimitri Payet would eventually pull one back late on, but Lens remained composed, even as tensions flared between players and staff more than once. Haise’s men are now four games away from Champions League football next season – and with PSG only three points ahead now, they could even push for more.
Lens player ratings
Brice Samba, 7 – The French international continues to impress – his reflex save from Jordan Veretout in the first half and some vital interventions in the second quelled any prospect of a Marseille comeback.
Przemysław Frankowski, 6 – Provided the assist for Openda’s goal with a precise cross, after pushing away Nuno Tavares.
Kevin Danso, 5 – The Austrian was at fault for what could have been Marseille’s early opener, having been too easily pushed off the ball by Alexis Sánchez. Luckily for him, Clément Turpin overturned the goal after a VAR check.
Jonathan Gradit, 6
Facundo Medina, 6
Deiver Machado, 5
Jean Onana, 6
Séko Fofana, 7 – The captain was not necessarily at his dominant best, and struggled at times to impose himself in midfield in the first half – but his long-range opener showed he remains the player Lens can count on for the big occasions. Improved as the game went on, but still wasted a few opportunities on the counter towards the end.
Florian Sotoca, 6
Angelo Fulgini, 5
Loïs Openda, 7
Marseille player ratings:
Pau López, 4
Jonathan Clauss, 4
Samuel Gigot, N/A – The Frenchman was substituted in the first half due to an injury – replaced by Leonardo Balerdi (6), who emerged as one of Marseille’s better performers tonight, especially in one-on-one duels.
Chancel Mbemba, 5
Sead Kolašinac, 4
Nuno Tavares, 3
Jordan Veretout, 5
Valentin Rongier, 5
Cengiz Ünder, 4
Ruslan Malinovskyi, 3 – The Ukrainian was virtually anonymous – his replacement, Dimitri Payet, made an instant impact and scored Marseille’s only goal of the game.
Alexis Sánchez, 6
GFFN | Raphaël Jucobin