PARIS (AP) Marseille’s turbulent season took a turn for the worse with a 1-0 loss away to Reims on Sunday, after conceding an early goal and finishing the match with 10 men.
The notoriously volatile club was thrown into turmoil last weekend when coach Marcelo Bielsa resigned moments after the home defeat to Caen, despite pledging days earlier that he was about to sign a two-year contract.
Led by caretaker coach Franck Passi, a former Marseille defender, the visitors fell behind to a strike by Mali defender Hamari Traore and then had midfielder Alaixys Romao sent off in the 73rd.
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”It’s disappointing, we could have given a better account of ourselves,” Passi said. ”We started the match too timidly and we lacked impact up front.”
While Marseille has yet to score a point, Reims’ win moved it provisionally top with six points alongside Normandy side Caen.
”I’m very satisfied with how my lads played,” Reims coach Olivier Gueguan said. ”They were very valiant and played very well in the first half.”
Later, defending champion Paris Saint-Germain faced newly-promoted Gazelec Ajaccio, a match featuring the first division’s biggest and smallest budgets.
PSG’s annual budget of 500 million euros ($555 million) dwarfs Gazelec’s 14 million euros ($15.6 million).
At Reims, nestled in France’s famed Champagne region, Marseille’s club owner Margarita Louis-Dreyfus and her son Kyri attended the match. But there was little to toast after another disappointing result for nine-time champion Marseille, the only French club to win the European Cup, in 1993.
Traore scored in the 14th minute, pouncing on a poorly cleared corner to chest down the loose ball before beating goalkeeper Steve Mandanda with a half-volley.
Bielsa’s resignation has shocked the club, especially as he became hugely popular with fans who know feel they have been completely betrayed by the Argentine coach.
President Vincent Labrune, who is scouting around for Bielsa’s replacement, paid tribute to the ”exceptional attitude of the Marseille fans” during the match.
”In difficult times we need to pull together,” said Labrune, who wants a foreign coach with a penchant for attacking football. Former Borussia Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp has turned down the chance to take charge.
Former Liverpool striker David NGog went close to adding a second for Reims in the 62nd, but Mandanda thwarted him with a low save.
Winger Florian Thauvin, forward Lucas Ocampos and Romao all tried their luck in the second half, but their efforts were kept out by Reims goalie Kossi Agassa, who also denied winger Romain Alessandrini in the first half.