UEFA Europa League, Matchday 1, 21/09/23
Managerless Olympique de Marseille salvaged a draw in their Europa League opener against Ajax thanks to a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang brace.
Both sides headed into the game in form, and Marseille in the midst of a crisis. Marcelino left the club on Wednesday following insults and threats from Marseille’s supporter groups, making his position untenable, whilst Pablo Longoria and other executives didn’t make the journey to the Netherlands as they step back from their positions to consider their future.
Things were equally as chaotic on the pitch. Both teams could have scored five in the first half, only poor finishing prevented that from being the case. Ajax rushed into a two-goal lead thanks to goals from Carlos Borges and Steven Berghuis, however, in an open game, Marseille had their chances. Aubameyang ought to have scored when the game was at 1-0, but he fluffed his lines through on goal.
Jonathan Clauss did halve the deficit following some good work from Amine Harit, and it was the Moroccan who got the assist for the equaliser as Aubameyang did get on the scoresheet. Les Phocéens should have gone into half-time with a lead with Amine Harit missing the most glaring of a flurry of chances.
Despite Ajax’s attempts to reinforce the midfield, the game was just as open in the second half. Kenneth Taylor, who was wasteful with his chances in the first half did get on the scoresheet with Samuel Gigot and Chancel Mbemba affording him ample space in the box.
However, Marseille were far from out of the game, and another glorious chance fell to Aubameyang, who once again missed. Steven Bergwijn was then denied by a brilliant Pau Lopez save at the other end. Ajax would regret that miss as Aubameyang popped up once again, cutting inside and curling past Jay Gorter. Taylor had another chance to double his account, but having controlled well, he blazed over.
In a match full of drama, Silvano Vos then received a late red card, but neither side could find the winner. The spoils were shared in an entertaining, frantic draw at the Johan Cruyff Arena.
Marseille player ratings
Pau López – 5 – he arguably should have done better on the opener by closing down Borges rather than retreating, but he made some important saves to keep his side in the game.
Renan Lodi – 5
Samuel Gigot – 3
Chancel Mbemba – 2 – a rare poor showing from Mbemba, who wasn’t his usual assured self. He misread the goal kick for Ajax’s opener and should have been tighter to his man for the Eredivisie side’s second and third. A few stray passes just summarised what was an uncharacteristically sloppy display.
Jonathan Clauss – 6
Geoffrey Kondogbia – 4
Valentin Rongier – 3
Azzedine Ounahi – 5 – deserves credit for getting himself into good positions frequently, and also being a reliant creative source, but needs to improve his finishing. He squandered so many chances for Marseille.
Amine Harit – 7 – the returning Harit was Marseille’s bright spark. Despite his serious injury, suffered just before the World Cup, he looks to have lost none of his creativity or tenacity. With two assists, he was Marseille’s creator-in-chief.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – 6 – like Ounahi, Aubameyang was extremely profligate against Ajax. Given Aubameyang’s reputation as a prolific finisher, his misses are less admissible. He really should have scored when one-on-one against Gorter, but he made the wrong choice in opting for the chip. However, he kept getting himself in the right positions and did get his goal, arguably with one of his more difficult opportunities on the night. More chances came his way in the second half. He missed one but took the other well before being subbed off in the 79th minute. At his best, Aubameyang would have had four or five, but a decisive performance nonetheless.
Iliman Ndiaye – 4
GFFN | Luke Entwistle