PARIS: Marseille climbed to second in Ligue 1 on Saturday after scoring twice in the first 13 minutes and resisting late pressure to beat Monaco 2-1.

Marseille slumped out of Europe on Wednesday after a disastrous Champions League campaign which ended with a defeat at Manchester City, but this was their sixth straight Ligue 1 victory.

With coach Andre Villas-Boas absent, suspended after receiving a red card on the bench in the game against Nimes last Friday, Marseille pounced on two early turnovers by Monaco.

As Monaco pressed in the second half, Thauvin dropped into his own penalty and conceded a 78th minute penalty with a dangerous high challenge on Wissam Ben Yedder.

“The guys were extremely tired and we came home from Manchester at 4:30 in the morning,” said the Marseille coach.

After Monaco gave the ball away on the edge of their box in the fifth minute, Dario Benedetto burst down the left edge of the penalty area and chipped the ball to the far post where Florian Thauvin headed in.

Eight minutes later, after Marseille won the ball back in the Monaco half, Thauvin returned the favour. He swung in a left-foot cross from the right which Argentine Bene­detto, running in unmarked, volleyed home.

Ben Yedder sent Steve Mandanda the wrong way from the spot kick, but the Marseille goalkeeper dealt serenely with Monaco’s desperate attempts in the closing minutes.

Stephy Mavididi headed Montpellier ahead after 16 minutes. Pedro Mendes buried a rebound 10 minutes later.

“The first period was very good. We controlled the ball,” said Villas Boas.

Monaco coach Niko Kovac lamented an early miss by Ben Yedder and the mistakes that led to the Marseille goals.

“We gave away some soft balls and that set up two shots and two goals,” said Kovac.

In the late game, Montpellier also raced into an early two-goal lead but had to quell a Lens fightback.

The home team fought back helped by an own goal by Montpellier goalkeeper Jonas Omlin before half time. They levelled in the 50th minute with Gael Kakuta’s fifth league penalty of the season.

Gaetan Laborde nodded the Montpellier winner in the 69th minute. They climbed to fifth.

Marseille leapfrogged Lille and Lyon to move into second, one-point behind Paris Saint-Germain, who were playing Lyon on Sunday.

Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2020

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