Marseille crash at home to struggling Ajaccio

Marseille lost for the first time in Ligue 1 this season as they fell 2-1 at home to Ajaccio on Saturday, who started the day in last place.

They crashed back to earth after crushing Sporting Lisbon 4-1 in midweek for their first Champions League win of the season.

“We didn’t imagine that we would remain unbeaten all season but it’s certainly hard to lose at home to the last-placed team,” said Marseille coach Igor Tudor, who said he was “very angry”.

In the middle of a demanding run, with a return match in Lisbon on Wednesday and a trip to Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain next Sunday, Tudor made seven changes to the starting lineup that beat Sporting.

His team took the lead after 15 minutes.

Captain Dimitri Payet seized the ball with authority when the referee whistled for a handball by Ajaccio defender Cedric Avinel.

The 35-year-old playmaker converted to score his 100th Ligue 1 goal, 16 years after his first for Nantes.

According to statisticians Opta, he is the first player to reach both the 100 goals and 100 assists mark in Ligue 1. Opta credits him with 112 assists.

“It’s still an important milestone in a career, I had passed the 100 assists, I was missing this goal to make the double-double,” he said, borrowing a phrase from basketball.

Payet and the Velodrome crowd were delighted but the happiness did not last long.

“We started the game well but inexplicably after our first goal we took our foot off the gas a bit and they were able to take advantage of it,” said Payet.

Ajaccio striker Bevic Moussiti-Oko equalised with a low left-footed shot, his first Ligue 1 goal in the 25th minute.

The Corsicans had only scored five goals in nine matches before Saturday, but got some help when Argentine defender Leonardo Balerdi, who scored for Marseille on Tuesday, put the ball in his own net in the 47th minute.

– ‘Live through hell’ –

Tudor then changed his entire attack, introducing Luis Suarez, Amine Harit and even former outcast Bamba Dieng, but the equaliser never came.

“We have a system where the coach rotates a lot, everyone gets playing time, we’re not going to complain about that, it’s up to us to do our best when we’re on the field,” said Payet.

Samuel Gigot’s deflection was saved by goalkeeper Benjamin Leroy with 15 minutes left and Ajaccio defended fiercely at the end.

“Ajaccio deserved their victory and we didn’t play well,” said Tudor. “I feel like even if we had played 200 minutes, we still wouldn’t have won.”

Marseille stay second but could be overtaken by Lens and Lorient on Sunday.

The defeat meant PSG stayed in first place ahead of their game at Reims later on Saturday.

Ajaccio climbed off the bottom to 18th in the 20-team league, but could be back in last by the end of the weekend.

“We expected to live through hell against an opponent full of confidence,” said Ajaccio coach Olivier Pantaloni.

“Maybe facing the last-place team did not motivate the Marseille players, especially after they opened the scoring. But maybe we also did what was necessary to upset them.”

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