A late goal by Stephane Mbia boosted Marseille's hopes of a first French title since 1992 on Wednesday as they edged Sochaux 1-0. As Marseille could end up with two trophies this season, Bordeaux, the team they beat in the League Cup final, hopes of retaining their league crown were almost extinguished with a 2-1 defeat by relegation-threatened Le Mans.
Marseille lead second-placed Auxerre by five points with four matches remaining, while Bordeaux - who only a month ago had the possibility of winning three trophies this season - are nine points adrift with a game in hand. It represents quite a turnaround in fortunes during the course of the season for Marseille coach Didier Deschamps and his Bordeaux counterpart Laurent Blanc - both of whom are seen as candidates to replace Raymond Domenech as national coach after the World Cup finals.
Blanc was both angry and understandably despondent after the defeat. "This evening I was really disappointed with the way we played, and also with the guys," said the FIFA World Cup™ and Euro winning defender. "It is imperative to inject some new blood into the team and that will start with the next match. It seems indecent to talk about the title this evening but am I worried about what is going to follow for the rest of the run-in? Yes."
Sochaux had rattled Marseille early on twice having efforts repelled in the seventh minute. First France U-19 midfielder Ryad Boudebouz had a shot parried away by Marseille 'keeper Steve Mandanda and Nigerian striker Ideye Brown having collected the rebound saw his shot cleared off the line by Laurent Bonnart. Brown wasted another opportunity in the 17th minute as the 21-year-old Nigerian got himself into a one on one with Mandanda but sent his shot wide of the post.
Marseille too were wasteful with their chances as leading scorer Mamadou Niang saw a header clawed away for a corner by Sochaux 'keeper Matthieu Dreyer, who was then grateful to Tunisian international defender Yassin Mikari, who headed off his line from Souleymane Diawara's header.
However, the League Cup winners wasted an even better chance in the 56th minute through record signing Lucho, who put together a nicely worked move with Niang, but the former Porto star's lob from inside the area came back off the bar into a grateful Dreyer's hands. The lively Boudebouz, though, reminded Marseille that they were very much in a tough battle as seeing Mandanda come off his line he chipped over him from long range only to see it clip the bar.
Mbia, though, struck late on getting a second bite of the cherry after his shot from Brandao's downward header was blocked but he tapped home the rebound. "Is that the title clinching goal? No lets not get ahead of ourselves and calm down. There are four matches to go," said Mbia. "We showed great mental strength to keep going for that goal."
Bordeaux lose the plot
Bordeaux seized the advantage early on as Brazilian defender Carlos Henrique rose to head home his first goal of the campaign from Czech Republic international midfielder Jaroslav Plasil's freekick in the eighth minute. However, Henrique was involved in a less impressive fashion as Le Mans equalised nine minutes later colliding with goalkeeper Cedric Carrasso at a Le Mans corner which former Liverpool striker Anthony Le Taellec seized on and rifled home a fierce shot.
Carraso was a little to blame too for Le Mans' second just before half time as he reacted too slowly to an underhit backpass by Benoit Tremoulinas which Mathieu Dossevi seized on gratefully and slotted the ball home. Bordeaux could make little impact in the second-half but were given a glimmer of hope in the 83rd minute when Le Mans striker Fousseyni Cisse was sent-off for a second bookable offence.