Marseille’s inconsistent start to life under Andre Villas-Boas continued on Sunday with a home 1-1 draw with Rennes that left the former European champions off the pace outside Ligue 1’s top four.
Duje Caleta-Car’s header seven minutes after the break earned Marseille a point at the Stade Velodrome after Mbaye Niang had finished off a sweeping attack to give the away side a deserved 19th-minute lead.
The hosts had goalkeeper Steve Mandanda to thank five minutes from the end when he pulled off a magnificent double save from Adrien Hunou to make sure Marseille’s disgruntled fans didn’t unleash the same whistles at the final whistle as they did at half-time.
Villas Boas’ side are fifth in the league on 13 points after winning just three of their opening eight matches and drawing their last two, following a goalless draw at bottom club Dijon in midweek.
However they too had a chance to snatch the points seconds before Mandanda’s heroics when the visitors’ goalkeeper Edouard Mendy pushed Bouna Sarr’s effort straight to Dario Benedetto, who could only smash the rebound way over the bar.
The draw means Marseille are five points behind league leaders Paris Saint-Germain, who are two points ahead of Nantes and surprise package Angers thanks to Neymar’s winner at Bordeaux on Saturday.
Rennes are a further point back in eighth after failing to win in five games.
Earlier Saint-Etienne won their first match since the opening day of the season thanks to right-back Mathieu Debuchy, who struck the winner in a 1-0 triumph at Nimes with his first goal of the season.
The away side, who have more French league titles than any other team, are still in the relegation zone but are level on eight points with four other teams at the wrong end of the table.
Debuchy thumped home a 68th-minute header to end a five-match winless run that had left the 10-time champions floundering.