29 March ~ The longest wait in French football is finally over. Seventeen years after last winning a trophy, Marseille beat Bordeaux 3-1 to collect the Coupe de la Ligue at the Stade de France on Saturday night. The game was fairly even until former Charlton Athletic centre-half Souleymane Diawara headed Marseille into the lead on 61 minutes. The goal provoked a particularly gleeful round of taunts from Marseille fans, because Diawara signed from Bordeaux last summer.
When Marseille substitute Mathieu Valbuena added a second six minutes later, Bordeaux coach Laurent Blanc effectively threw in the towel. With one eye on Tuesday night's Champions League quarter-final first leg against Lyon, he brought off Yoann Gourcuff and Marouane Chamakh, his most important attackers, in order to save them for that game. Bordeaux right-back Mathieu Chalmé put through his own net to make the score 3-0 before Ludovic Sané scored a late consolation for les Girondins.
So in his first season in charge Didier Deschamps has won something, a feat that eluded Marseille's previous 16 coaches. But the 41-year-old former France captain and l'OM have always proved a winning combination – as skipper, Deschamps was the last man to lift a trophy for Marseille when they beat AC Milan in the 1993 Champions League final.
Not that his first season in charge has been problem-free. The players initially struggled to adapt to his rigorous style, having thrived under the more avuncular approach of predecessor Eric Gerets. Injury sidelined Argentina midfielder Lucho González, the club's €18 million (£16m) record signing, for the opening six weeks of the season. And Deschamps faced an embarrassing climbdown over Valbuena, a player he intended selling last summer. Valbuena refused to leave, regained his first team spot and has become so valuable he was voted the official man of the match on Saturday night. In welcoming the player back, however, Deschamps has shown that the stubborn streak that sometimes surfaced during coaching spells in charge of Monaco (2001-05) and Juventus (2006-07) is starting to fade.
The question now is – will Marseille's Coupe de la Ligue triumph prove the start of a successful chapter for the club? Their immediate priority is the Ligue 1 title. With eight matchdays to go, they are one of six clubs separated by just three points at the top. If all teams win their games in hand, Marseille will go second. That promising league position meant that, even as the players celebrated in front of 15,000 fans in the Vieux-Port area of Marseille on Sunday afternoon, thoughts were already turning towards a bigger prize. James Eastham