MARSEILLE: Olympique de Marseille crushed Toulouse 4-0 on Friday as the Ligue 1 season opened with a video assistant refereeing (VAR) decision leading to the first goal.
Attacking midfielder Dimitri Payet scored in each half, with his penalty on the stroke of half-time awarded after a video review.
Striker Valere Germain added a third goal, while winger Florian Thauvin struck two minutes into injury time on a night which saw the World Cup trophy shown off to the crowd who also warmly welcomed back their world champion players Adil Rami and Steve Mandanda.
“We can say that it is a perfect evening even if we can always do better,” said Marseille coach Rudi Garcia.
“Four goals without conceding, all scored by the attackers and in a full Velodrome — it was very good.”
The VAR system had debuted at the World Cup in Russia and it made its entrance in the French top flight on Friday just before the half-time whistle.
Alerted by VAR officials that defender Kelvin Amian had blocked a cross with his hand, Ruddy Buquet checked the images. Having initially signaled a corner, the referee changed his mind and pointed to the spot.
Payet, who missed France’s World Cup victory last month after being injured in the Europa League final, sent goalkeeper Baptiste Reynet the wrong way.
He netted again in the 62nd minute with a neat volley after Reynet had blocked Bouna Sarr’s angled shot.
“The ball came to me quickly, I just tried to guide it in,” Payet told Canal Plus television.
“The end of last season was quite hard for me ... so I just want to enjoy myself and start the season well.”
Payet completely controlled the game and sent Germain clean through with a defense-splitting pass in the 75th minute but Reynet saved well.
Payet got an ovation from the Stade Velodrome crowd when he was replaced by Thauvin.
Germain then expertly controlled midfielder Morgan Sanson’s pass and curled the ball past Reynet in the 89th minute before Thauvin — another member of France’s World Cup winning squad — skillfully flicked the ball up with his heel and slotted in from close range to complete the rout.
“The World Cup win has given us wings, strength and confidence,” said Thauvin.
Toulouse coach Alain Casanova said that the scoreline flattered Marseille although he welcomed the addition of the VAR.
“Two days ago, I said I was for VAR. I will not deny what I said, even if it was against us tonight,” said Casanova. “It will be important in the future.”
Defending champions Paris St Germain, with Neymar and World Cup star Kylian Mbappe in tandem, begin their campaign on Sunday against Caen at the Parc des Princes.
Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2018