A brace from Gerson, along with goals from Cengiz Under and Cedric Bakambu ensured a Champions League spot for Olympique de Marseille, who beat RC Strasbourg 4-0 in Ligue 1 at the Orange Velodrome.
Marseille were well on top for most of the first half, with their best chance coming in the sixth minute. Strasbourg lost possession of the ball in their own half quite sloppily, with the ball landing to Arkadiusz Milik in the middle of the box. He did well to lay off the ball to a rushing Amine Harit, whose shot somehow hit the post.
The let off for Strasbourg didn’t last long, on 31 minutes, the hosts scored their goal. The ball was bouncing around, but Gerson managed to keep possession, get past a few defenders, and squeeze the ball between the near post and the feet of Matz Sels.
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The flow of the second half was disrupted early on due to the amount of smoke from the fans’ flares, making the visibility extremely poor. After about a five-minute delay, play resumed.
Once play restarted, the story of the first half continued, with Strasbourg never really threatening Steve Mandanda’s goal.
In the 73rd minute, the visitors made a triple change to try to get back into the match, but the tactic was quickly rendered useless as Marseille managed to score their second moments later.
The goal started on the left-hand side with Amine Harit, who got the ball centrally towards Milik. However, the Polish striker cleverly let the ball be, allowing Under to run onto the pass, and smash the ball into the back of the net.
In the 89th minute, Gerson added a second to his tally, after being set up by Milik for a finish to poke home. The match was well and truly over at this point but once substitute Bakambu scored the fourth in stoppage time, making OM level on goal difference with Monaco, who were in second, it wasn't just about the three points. Fans in the stadium all held up their index fingers signifying to the players that they just needed one more to leap into second, and go straight into the Champions League group stages.
OM continued to push for the fifth goal, but in the end it wasn't needed, as Stade Rennais did them a favour and scored a 96th equaliser against Monaco. The full-time whistles saw the matchgoers, the players, and all the coaching staff in tears as they celebrated the monumentous win on the final day of the season.
The loss for Strasbourg, combined with Nice winning, means that they drop down from fifth to sixth and fail to qualify for the Conference League.
TALKING POINT: OM GET THEMSELVES INTO SECOND
Before the match, there was the slightest possibility that they wouldn’t even finish inside the top four. But after scoring four goals, and having a little help from Lens, they’ve gone and finished second in the table, two points above Monaco. It may not seem like much but with France's coefficient, only the top two get into the Champions League group stages, meaning had they not won, and had Monaco not dropped points, OM would have had to start their Champions League next year in the early qualification rounds. A huge relief for the players and the fans, especially after missing out on CL football this year.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH: GERSON
There was lots of worry about Marseille's attack tonight due to missing Dimitri Payet, but Jorge Sampaoli once again got it right with his forward line. Matteo Guendouzi, Milik, Harit, and Under were all immense, but Gerson was a class above. He scored two goals from his three shots on target, and had three key passes into the box. Even though Strasbourg were playing with three centre-backs, he consistently was able to move them out of position and create space for himself.
MARSEILLE: Mandanda 7, Rongier 7, Kamara 7, Caleta-Car 7, Peres 8, Guendouzi 6, Gerson 9, Gueye 6, Under 8, Milik 8, Harit 7... Subs: Lopez, Lirola N/A, Kolasinac N/A, Henrique N/A, Bakambu 7.
STRASBOURG: Sels 7, Guilbert 6, Caci 7, Nyamsi 5, Perrin 5, Djiku 5, Thomasson 6, Prcic 6, Aholou 6, Ajorque 7, Gameiro 6... Subs: Fila 6, Kandil 6, Sissoko 6, Bellegarde 7, Diallo 6.
6’ - MARSEILLE HIT THE POST: The visitors lose the ball in the box, and it goes straight to Milik, who holds up the ball before laying it off to Harit for the perfect chance. His shot, however, hits the post! What a chance!
32’ - GOAL! MARSEILLE 1-0 STRASBOURG: Just when you think the chance is gone, Gerson manages to keep possession after the ball wobbles a bit and beats Sels at the near post!
55’ - TAKING A BREAK: Visibility is incredibly bad here due to flares from the home fans, so we're taking a break here. Players using the opportunity to take a drink and coaching staff are discussing tactics with those on the bench who will come on a little later.
73’ - GOAL! MARSEILLE 2-0 STRASBOURG: Under doubles the lead, and all but guarantees a top three finish. Harit with the ball out wide as he passes it inward, Milik cleverly leaves the ball to the surprise of the defenders allowing Under to run onto the pass with no pressure and smash the ball into the back of the net.
89’ - GOAL! MARSEILLE 3-0 STRASBOURG: Gerson again! He gets a brace after Strasbourg lose possession allowing OM to get the ball into the box, with Milik teeing it up to Gerson for an easy finish. Sels gets his hand on it, but he can't keep it out.
90+1’ - GOAL! MARSEILLE 4-0 STRASBOURG: IT'S FOUR. It isn't about winning anymore. It's about improving the goal difference to leap into second. They need one more goal if they want to jump ahead of Monaco. Bakambu scores after Sels makes the initial save but can't keep the ball in his hands.
90+5’ LENS HAS TIED THE MATCH WITH MONACO IN THE LAST MIN: ALL THE OM PLAYERS AND THE FANS ARE CELEBRATING BECAUSE THEY'VE LEAPED TO SECOND. They didn’t need the fifth goal after all! WHAT AN ENDING!
Despite being on the losing side, Matz Sels made 7 saves, with two being inside the box.
Under’s goal means that he closes out his first campaign at the club with 18 goal involvements (13 goals and 5 assists).
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