Paris (AFP) – A late leveller from Ismael Traore put the brakes on Marseille’s bid for Champions League football next season as the southern giants were held to a 1-1 draw at Angers on Sunday.
Marseille travelled west hoping to move into the Ligue 1 top three after Monaco were held to a scoreless draw at home to Amiens on Saturday as Lyon took second by beating Nantes.
Paris Saint-Germain, who battled back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Guingamp on Sunday, wrapped up the title with plenty of room to spare two weeks ago.
On paper, three points were well within Marseille’s grasp.
Coach Rudi Garcia certainly appeared to believe so as he left both Dimitri Payet and Kostas Mitroglou on the bench ahead of Thursday’s Europa League semi-final second leg at Salzburg.
But despite a third-minute penalty from Florian Thauvin, misfiring Angers finally got back on level terms thanks to Traore’s header from a free-kick on 79 minutes.
Marseille remain fourth, one point behind Monaco in the third and last Champions League qualifying position.
But Garcia remained confident that Marseille will reach their objectives both at home and in Europe.
“We’ve dropped two points, which is a regret because we’re approaching the end of the season,” he said.
“But we still have three matches to play, and Monaco also dropped points. It’s not over yet.”
He added: “Now, we’ll turn our focus to the Europa League and do everything we can to make the final. Then we host Nice (in Ligue 1) and we’ll start our bid to move up one or two places in the table.
“Everything is possible.”
– Marseille fail to build on Thauvin strike –
After Monaco’s slip-up, motivation should not have been an issue for Marseille at the Raymond Kopa stadium.
But Garcia’s men struggled to build on the early lead provided by Thauvin after Abdoulaye Bamba had fouled Valere Germain during the first corner of the game.
In wet and slippery conditions both keepers were kept on their toes.
Marseille shot-stopper Yohann Pele produced a great one-handed save to thwart Flavien Tait from a tight angle minutes before the interval.
But Ludovic Butelle was the busiest of the pair, the 35-year-old forced into action quickly after the restart to charge down Jordan Amavi’s angled strike before palming a wicked curling effort from Thauvin over the bar moments later.
The greasy pitch made for a scrappy affair with passes, and shots, going astray.
But not even those challenges were an excuse for Angers missing a golden chance to level on 70 minutes.
Karl Toko Ekambi’s run through the middle into the area saw the ball stop dead, with Pele stranded.
Yet, faced with an empty goal, Thomas Mangani sent his effort high over the bar from 16 yards out.
But the home fans were finally given reason to celebrate when Traore rose highest at the back post to meet Tait’s free-kick from deep on the left and fire a header past a rooted Pele and into the bottom corner.
Champions PSG needed two goals from Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani to rescue a point at home to mid-table Guingamp.
Ludovic Blas and Jimmy Briand had put Guingamp on course for a shock win at the Parc des Princes before Cavani became his club’s all-time Ligue 1 top scorer with a 75th-minute penalty and leveller seven minutes from time.
The brace took Cavani’s career total to 115 goals in the French top flight.
Rennes boosted their hopes of fighting for a Europa League place with a precious 2-1 win over Toulouse that pushed the Brittany side up one place to sixth.
They are now just one point behind fifth-placed Saint-Etienne.