Marseille wins French League Cup

Marseille became the first side to win successive League Cups when defender Taye Taiwo’s late winner helped to beat Montpellier 1-0 in the final at Stade de France on Saturday.

In a scrappy and sometimes ill-tempered game, the teams looked set for extra time until the Nigeria defender scored with a low shot in the 80th minute.

Marseille, which trails league leader Lille by one point with seven rounds remaining, can repeat the domestic double it achieved last season.

”It was a heated match. We created many chances and my players showed character,” Marseille coach Didier Deschamps said. ”It’s great for the players, they are rewarded for their efforts and a lot of people will be delighted in Marseille tonight.”

Montpellier, chasing its first trophy in 21 years, suffered a second loss in six days to Marseille after a 2-1 home defeat last weekend in the league. Taiwo, who is strongly tipped to join AC Milan next season, also scored the winner during that game with a 82nd-minute penalty.

Taiwo celebrated Marseille’s victory by joining fans to sing an expletive-laced chant against the southern club’s archrival Paris Saint-Germain.

”I did not hear it, it will give you something to write about,” Deschamps said. ”The less you write about it, the better it is.”

Rene Girard’s Montpellier was dangerous on the break in the first half but struggled physically after the interval and never looked like it would score.

”We were made to pay for a lapse,” Girard said. ”They scored from a set-piece and we knew it would make the difference tonight. I’m a bit disappointed but I’m proud of the boys, they gave all they had.”

Both teams showed their nerves in the early stages with neither side able to retain possession in a fully packed stadium.

Marseille was dealt a blow in the 7th when midfielder Stephane M’Bia injured his groin and was replaced by Charles Kabore.

But it was Deschamps’ team which created the first chance when France striker Andre-Pierre Gignac connected with a well timed ball in the box only to see goalkeeper Laurent Pionnier reach the ball first in the 9th.

After a good collective move on the right flank, Montpellier responded in the 14th when the inexperienced Jamel Saihi, who was picked ahead of playmaker Marco Estrada, missed the target with a powerful strike.

Marseille midfielder Lucho Gonzalez forced Pionnier to make a two-fisted save from a curled free kick just before Saihi saw his effort from three meters denied by ‘keeper Steve Mandanda with a reflex save.

Saihi was again a threat in the 31st with a long-range free kick parried into a corner by Mandanda.

Marseille had the best opportunity of the first half in the next minute when France winger Mathieu Valbuena hit the left post after defender Mapou Yangambiwa failed to clear a precise cross from Gignac.

Marseille gradually took a grip on the game but Montpellier was dangerous on the break as Cyril Jeunechamp fired directly at Mandanda in the 35th before Bocaly missed the target with an acrobatic volley.

Marseille came close immediately after the interval when Pionnier kept out a fine header from Ghana forward Andre Ayew, left unmarked in the box.

Ayew had another great chance in the 57th when he jumped highest only to see his glancing header from a corner go just wide.

Marseille finally broke down the stubborn Montpellier defense when Pionnier failed to clear a free kick from Benoit Cheyrou. Taiwo took advantage of the confusion and latched onto the ball to unleash a right-footed low strike from the edge of the box that left the keeper stranded.

Taiwo ran to the bench to celebrate his first League Cup goal this season and was cheered by the Marseille staff and substitutes as fans started to light flares in the stands.

Last year, Marseille ended a 17-year trophy drought when the club won the League Cup, the club’s first silverware since the Champions League in 1993. Deschamps then guided his team to a first French league title since 1992.

Montpellier won two French Cups, in 1929 and 1990, and lost in the final in 1931 and 1994.