Park pushes Monaco past Marseille
Marseille suffered a painful second defeat of the season as Monaco and their inspired goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier rocked the Stade Velodrome. First-half goals from Nene and Park Chu-Young gave Monaco a princely lead, but it was almost all Marseille after the interval, and they would have turned around the match were it not for Ruffier's brilliance. Marseille did get a consolation when Mamadou Niang netted with five minutes remaining, but they could not force a leveller.
After finishing second and qualifying for the UEFA Champions League last season, Marseille were eager to produce another title challenge this term. However, tonight's defeat leaves them with plenty of ground to make up already. They lag six points behind Lyon, the team desperate to reassert themselves as French football's top dogs, and five behind defending champions Bordeaux.
Monaco even climbed above their southern rivals with this win. Marseille's Taye Taiwo fired against the outside of the left post in the 12th minute, the game's first real goal threat. But Monaco went in front after 20 minutes when Nene's free-kick took a deflection off Lucho Gonzalez and found the right corner.
And it was 2-0 in the 41st minute when Alejandro Alonso's pass released Park, who fended off defenders Gabriel Heinze and Souleymane Diawara before rifling a ten-yard shot past France goalkeeper Steve Mandanda. Mandanda had to react smartly two minutes later to whip the ball away from Park as he threatened another Monaco goal.
It then became the Ruffier show after the break. He made his first outstanding save in the first minute of the half, a superb reflex stop to turn away Hatem Ben Arfa's shot. The crossbar came to his rescue in the 64th minute when Niang set up Benoit Cheyrou and the midfielder had no luck with his shot.
Ruffier brilliantly turned Stephane M'Bia's header behind for a corner two minutes later and then foiled Cheyrou again when the Marseille man took on a pass from Ben Arfa and hit a wicked low shot, which drew a top-class save from the 23-year-old goalkeeper. Marseille finally found a way past Ruffier, when Ben Arfa released Niang and the Senegalese striker unleashed a fierce shot that scorched into the net from ten yards.
With an equaliser their objective, Marseille pushed forward and won a free-kick that Cheyrou fired into the penalty area. Defender Diawara made contact at the near post, but Ruffier's reflexes won out again, protecting Monaco's maximum points haul.
"It was a good time to play Marseille," acknowledged Monaco coach Guy Lacombe. "They were playing their third match in a week and we know it's always tough playing after a European game. This result gives me hope, but also expectations."
Marseille coach Didier Deschamps refused to panic. He said: "I'm convinced we can do better. It's been a difficult week, but I am convinced in the potential of this team."