Champions Marseille failed to take advantage of the mediocre form being shown by some of their title rivals during a dramatic 2-2 draw with Monaco at their Stade Velodrome on Sunday.
Lyon, Bordeaux and Paris Saint Germain have all shown poor form in the early stages of the French league with only PSG taking all three points Saturday with a 4-0 romp over league new boys Arles-Avignon.
Marseille had been hoping to boost their own lacklustre campaign, which had left them fifth from bottom before this match. However that bid was kept in check by a Monaco side who deserved a share of the spoils.
Didier Deschamps' Marseille began in positive fashion, with efforts from Pierre-Andre Gignac and Bruno Cheyrou testing Monaco keeper Stephane Ruffier in the opening minutes. It took only 14 minutes however for Monaco to stun the stadium into silence when Daniel Niculae latched onto a pass from Dieumerci Mbokani to beat 'keeper Steve Mandanda from a tight angle.
Marseille should have at least have had an equaliser in the following 15 minutes. Taye Taiwo's drive in the 17th minute was only saved by Ruffier after two attempts. Gignac then got another crack with a shot which Ruffier collected and moments later Marseille sniffed another opening when an angled drive from Valbuena had Brandao waiting in front of goal hoping for Ruffier to spill.
Valbuena then took the initiative himself. When a long free-kick from Marseille was cleared badly by the Monaco defence, the little midfielder levelled in the 40th minute with a superb first-time drive.
Marseille's domination followed through to the second half and they almost had a second goal after seven minutes when Taiwo set up Lucho nicely on the edge of the box only for the striker's first-timer to go over the bar. Valbuena then turned provider for Cheyrou, whose shot forced a good save from Ruffier.
Despite Marseille's goal chances, Monaco were not outshone. Striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed a great chance to put the visitors in front when he zipped past the Marseille defence, but his shot to the right of Mandanda was wide.
Marseille were then stunned by a counter-attacking move which put Monaco in front thanks to Korean striker Chu-Young Park. Aubameyang ran nearly 50 metres and waited for Park to make his move before releasing the ball for the Korean.
Marseille midfielder Stephane Mbia had checked back and got a touch of the ball, but Park deftly took the ball back and beat Mandanda with a cool flick of his left foot. Monaco's joy was brief, however, with Marseille levelling moments later when Adriano kicked the ball into his own net after a shot across goal by Valbuena. In the third minute of injury time Marseille were denied a game-winning goal when Gignac's diving header, which beat Ruffier, was waved away by the referee.