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VAR paves way for Marseille’s 4-0 victory in season opener

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PARIS (AP) Marseille crushed Toulouse 4-0 on Friday as the French league season opened with a video assistant refereeing (VAR) decision leading to the first goal.

Attacking midfielder Dimitri Payet scored in each half, with his penalty on the stroke of halftime awarded after a video review. Striker Valere Germain added a third goal, while winger Florian Thauvin struck two minutes into injury time.

[ RECAP: Man Utd 2-1 Leicester City ]

Alerted by VAR officials that defender Kelvin Amian had blocked a cross with his hand, Ruddy Buquet checked the images. Having initially signaled a corner, the referee changed his mind and pointed to the spot.

Payet, who missed France’s World Cup title victory last month after being injured in the Europa League final, sent goalkeeper Baptiste Reynet the wrong way.

He netted again in the 62nd minute with a neat volley after Reynet had blocked Bouna Sarr’s angled shot.

“The ball came to me quickly, I just tried to guide it in,” Payet told Canal Plus television. “The end of last season was quite hard for me … so I just want to enjoy myself and start the season well.”

Payet completely controlled the game and sent Germain clean through with a defense-splitting pass in the 75th minute but Reynet saved well.

Payet got an ovation from the Stade Velodrome crowd when he was replaced by Thauvin – a member of France’s World Cup squad – in the 82nd minute.

Germain then expertly controlled midfielder Morgan Sanson’s pass and curled the ball past Reynet in the 89th minute before Thauvin skillfully flicked the ball up with his heel and slotted in from close range to complete the rout.

Marseille finished fourth last season and missed out on a Champions League playoff spot by one point.

Jerome Pugmire is at http://www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire

Marseille signs Caleta-Car, Fonte joins Lille

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MARSEILLE, France (AP) Croatia defender Duje Caleta-Car has joined Marseille from Red Bull Salzburg, becoming the first offseason signing for the nine-time French champion.

Caleta-Car played a group game at the World Cup with Croatia, which lost 4-2 against France in the final last week.

[ MORE: Spurs sign Son to contract extension ]

He won four Austrian league titles and three national cups with Salzburg.

Terms of the deals were not disclosed but L’Equipe newspaper reported that Marseille agreed to a fee of 19 million euros for the 21-year-old player, who was also targeted by Spanish club Sevilla.

“He is a very good central defender, for now and for the future,” Marseille sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta said. “He is a clever player, who understands football. His very physical skills make him very good in the air and has good passing abilities.”

Marseille finished fourth in the French league last season and lost 3-0 against Atletico Madrid in the Europa League final, missing out on a Champions League berth.

FONTE JOINS LILLE

Portugal defender Jose Fonte is set to continue his much-traveled career in the north of France after agreeing to a two-year deal with Lille.

The 34-year-old Fonte started all four games at the World Cup in Russia as Portugal was eliminated by Uruguay in the round of 16.

Two years ago, he was a member of the squad which won the European championship in France.

Lille said in a statement Fonte will sign “in the coming days” following medical tests.

The former Crystal Palace, Southampton and West Ham center back played only a few matches with Chinese club Dalian Yifang this year before terminating his contract.

He is the second international to join Lille this summer after former France forward Loic Remy.

“I’m very proud to join Lille, which is a great French club,” Fonte said. “It’s a new challenge for me, hopefully it will be successful.”

Atletico Madrid wins third Europa League title

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A Frenchman ended the silverware dreams of a French power.

Antoine Griezmann’s brace, both assisted by Koke, led Atletico Madrid past Marseille 3-0, claiming the UEFA Europa League title on Wednesday in Lyon.

It’s the third Europa League crown for Atleti, and for Diego Simeone (two as Atleti manager, and one as Inter Milan player).

Gabi also scored for Atleti.

[ MORE: The Premier League season in statistics ]

Valere Germain was played through on goal very early, but missed his chance to give Marseille the lead.

The miss stung soon after, when Steve Mandanda made a poor clearance. Koke hit it to Griezmann first time, and the Atleti striker scored in his home country.

Marseille lost Dimitri Payet to an injury soon after the half-hour mark.

And Griezmann made it 2-0 before the second half was four minutes old, taking another Koke through ball and flicking over a diving Mandanda.

Kostas Mitroglou subbed into the game for Marseille and headed off the frame in the Ligue 1 side’s best chance to get back into the hunt.

LIVE, Europa League final: Marseille v. Atletico Madrid

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The UEFA Europa League final takes place in Lyon, France on Wednesday (kick off, 2:45 p.m. ET) with Marseille and Atletico Madrid clashing for the second-biggest trophy in European club soccer.

[ LIVE: Europa League final ]

Atletico are the overwhelming favorites but Marseille have rode a wave of positivity towards the final as they aim to become the first French club to win a major European club trophy since they won the European Cup back in 1993. Although Paris Saint-Germain did win the now defunct UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1995-95, it must be noted…

Marseille lost in the Europa League final (then known as the UEFA Cup) in 1999 and 2004 but the Ligue 1 side are hoping mercurial playmaker Dimitri Payet can deliver the goods, along with top scorer Florian Thauvin, a few hundred miles from home in what would be a big shock.

Victory would secure Marseille a place in the UEFA Champions League group stage next season with the French giants currently out of the UCL qualification spots in the French top-flight with one game to go.

Diego Simeone will not be able to coach his Atletico Madrid team from the sidelines in the final after his antics in the first leg of their semifinal victory against Arsenal and although Atleti have already secured their spot in the Champions League next season via a top four finish in La Liga, this is a competition they love after winning it in 2010 and 2012.

Antoine Griezmann is the danger man for Atleti (who lost to Real Madrid in both the 2014 and 2016 UCL finals) with the French international striker looking to end the season on a high back in his homeland, while Diego Costa will be sniffing around for goals, and trouble, as per usual…

Click on the link above to follow all the action from the Groupama Stadium live, while we will have analysis and reaction from the final right here on Pro Soccer Talk.


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Europa League final preview: Greizmann goes home

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Atletico Madrid doesn’t need to win Europa League Final to make the UEFA Champions League, but Marseille might.

[ MORE: U.S. players in the Premier League ]

The two tangle Wednesday in Lyon, with Atleti’s Antoine Griezmann returning to France to face one of the biggest clubs in Ligue 1.

And there are two specific French strikers who may make the difference in the final, won last season by Manchester United. Atleti won the UEL in 2010 and 2012, and a French team has never won the tournament (Marseille is a two-time finalist).

Griezmann will be the key for Atletihas a goal or an assist in all but one Europa League match this season, and his 27 goals and 15 assists on the season on par with most of his better years despite playing in fewer matches.

Marseille’s Florian Thauvin was a bust under Steve McClaren at Newcastle, but has fulfilled every bit of his promise this season with OM after a terrific return to Ligue 1 last season.

Atleti has allowed a miserly 20 goals in league play this season, and just 13 more in 20 other matches. Goalkeeper Jan Oblak has been especially sensational in the tournament.