01.08.2015 21:42 - in: Friendlies S

      Marseille victors in France

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      Olympique Marseille secure a 2-0 win over the Bianconeri in a feisty final friendly before the Super Cup

      Olympique Marseille got the better of Massimiliano Allegri’s men with a 2-0 victory in the Stade Velodrome on Saturday night.

      Well known for his attacking philosophy, Marcelo Bielsa had his men playing a high octane game that often put the visitors on the back foot. Romain Alessandrini and Florian Thauvin were the men pulling the strings up front and the former, having already struck a post, found the opener in fairly fortuitous circumstances on 35 minutes with a miscued cross from the right.

      Prior to the goal, the Bianconeri had more than matched their French opponents with a couple of close efforts, but the early exit of Sami Khedira through injury and 45th minute dismissal of Stephan Lichtsteiner exacerbated what was already turning out to be a tough test in southern France.

      Juventus managed to fashion a couple of chances on the counter-attack in the second period and nearly found a way back into the contest through a Paul Pogba free-kick that hit the post before Marseille resumed control and concluded proceedings on 83 minutes when Abdelaziz Barrada fired in following a defensive mix-up.

      Allegri’s men did not have to wait long for their first attempt on goal. In the third minute Paul Pogba’s incisive ball found Mario Mandzukic in space on the right, but the Croatian’s low ball aimed at an unmarked Alvaro Morata was intercepted by Marseille’s defence. Martin Caceres rose highest to get his head on the resulting corner and the ball fell to Morata, but the Spaniard could  not keep his shot down.

      Marseille, playing a high pressing game, came close to scoring themselves after nine minutes when Alessandrini clattered the post with a wicked shot-cross. In any case, Thauvin’s offside position had the linesman raising his flag.

      In what was becoming a very open first half, Juventus were back up the other end of the pitch just a minute later, but Steve Mandanda was equal to Sami Khedira’s close-range effort following good work on the edge of the area by Roberto Pereyra.

      Gigi Buffon would be made to pull off a save of his own on 16 minutes, diving low to tip a dangerous curled shot from the busy Alessandrini. Thauvin too tried his luck moments later, but sent his drive marginally over the crossbar.

      A fine 20 minutes of football would soon be succeeded by a less than savoury spell, with Mario Lemina’s booking for a push on Morata sparking a series of fouls and tough tackling. As the game began to lose its momentum, Khedira pulled up with an injury and the German had to be stretchered off.

      Things would get worse for the Bianconeri on 35 minutes, with Alessandrini going one better with another cross-cum-shot that eluded Buffon, sailing over his shoulders into the top corner.

      Marseille now had the bit between their teeth. First Thauvin came close after tricking his way past Lichtsteiner on the touchline. Then Benjamin Mendy shot inches wide with a powerful strike from outside the area.

      Already aware now of the difficulties facing them in the second half, Juventus’ challenge to reduce the deficit became even harder when the referee gave the Swiss full-back his marching orders for dissent on the stroke of half-time.

      Bielsa’s men showed no signs of easing off after the break, Mendy forcing Buffon into yet another save. The Bianconeri, meanwhile, were restricted to a long-range Mandzukic strike that sailed wide of the target, as the ball rarely left their opponents’ possession.

      However, a better organised Juventus rearguard were preventing Marseille from carving out any major openings, as a couple of counter-attacks spearheaded by an energetic Pogba helped to alleviate the pressure.

      And the midfielder so nearly capped off a fine display with an equalising goal on 68 minutes. After winning a free-kick following another of his forward forays, Pogba almost calculated his lines to perfection, arrowing in a superb effort onto Mandanda’s post.

      The Frenchman, Juve’s most dangerous forward outlet, was deservedly clapped off the field of play a minute later. Following his withdrawal, Marseille would again enjoy a spell of dominance and ultimately a second goal.

      Barrada it was to double the hosts’ lead on 83 minutes. The Moroccan was at hand to unleash a venomous strike past second-half substitute Neto after Mauricio Isla inadvertently diverted a cross into the midfielder’s path.

      That effectively sealed the contest, as Juventus were left wondering what might have happened had they not suffered a numerical disadvantage.

      Massimiliano Allegri will hope for better fortune when his men take on Lazio in next Saturday’s Super Cup with an opportunity to win a first major trophy of 2015/16 at stake.

      Juventus:  Buffon (Neto 56), Lichtsteiner, Caceres (Zaza 77), Bonucci, Evra (Isla 64), Pogba (Rugani 69), Marchisio, Khedira (Sturaro 26), Pereyra (Padoin 45), Morata (Dybala 56), Mandzukic (Coman 69)

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