By A. Scott
Olympique de Marseille came away with a 1-1 draw from their clash with Montpellier Hérault SC at the Stade de la Mosson on Sunday as they extended their long unbeaten run.
Montpellier Hérault SC 1 – 1 Olympique de Marseille
Having played in midweek, both coaches freshened things up by making three changes to their teams. Veteran captain Vitorino Hilton was among those to return for Montpellier as he faced his former club, while Marseille coach Rudi Garcia gave starts to Aymen Abdennour and Valère Germain as well as recalling Morgan Sanson to face his old side.
Marseille pushed the home side back in the opening stages but it was Montpellier who created the greater danger, with Stéphane Sessegnon forcing Steve Mandanda into a good save from range (9′). Montpellier then went on to take the lead just before the half-hour mark. Giovanni Sio found Jérôme Roussillon wide on the left and continued into the box, where he met the deflected cross that followed with a volley that found the net despite Mandanda getting a touch (29′).
If they wanted to win the game, Marseille’s task was now made that much harder, with the mean Montpellier defence not having conceded two goals in a match since a 2-1 loss at Dijon FCO in August. They had gone well over five hours without conceding at all, but they were undone on the stroke of half-time as Hilton was penalised for blocking a Sanson shot with his arm in the penalty box and Florian Thauvin stepped up to score the resulting penalty for his eighth Ligue 1 Conforama goal of the campaign.
That was not to be the springboard for OM to go on and win the game after the break though, and they only really came close once, from a terrific Germain strike that was kept out by a world-class Benjamin Lecomte save (71′).
Indeed Marseille survived a late scare to come away with a point. The hosts thought they had won it when Junior Sambia – with his first touch after coming on – swung in a free-kick that was headed home by Souleymane Camara. But the goal was disallowed for an offside against Hilton and Marseille held on to extend their unbeaten run to 11 Ligue 1 Conforama games. They slip to fourth though, while Montpellier – who have lost just once in 11 – are eighth.
THE PLAYER: Vitorino Hilton
The 40-year-old defender returned to the side against his old club and was involved in the two biggest talking points of the night. He was penalised for handball at the penalty which brought OM level, and then he was responsible for Montpellier having what they thought was the winner ruled out. Hilton was in an offside position as he dived in an attempt to get a touch to Camara’s goal-bound header, and the officials ruled the effort out after a long discussion.
THE STAT: 1
Thauvin’s penalty that brought Marseille level was the first spot-kick OM have been awarded this season.