Andre Villas-Boas had few excuses for his Marseille team on Saturday after their 14-match unbeaten run in Ligue 1 came to an end with a surprise 3-1 home defeat by off-form Nantes.
Marseille are second and have put themselves in a strong position to qualify for the Champions League next season thanks to their hot streak but were downed by goals either side of half-time by Anthony Limbombe and Abdoul Kader Bamba and a late Alvaro own goal at the Stade Velodrome.
Morgan Sanson had given Marseille hope of continuing their run after levelling the scores with a lovely finish five minutes before the break, but Villas-Boas admitted his side deserved to lose after a weak display.
“We weren’t very good today, we lost the ball a lot and struggled to build play,” said the Portuguese coach.
“We had confidence that we could change the match when we equalised, but their second goal hit us hard.”
Marseille are nine points clear of third-placed Lille, who won 3-0 against rock-bottom Toulouse – who have now lost 14 of their last 15 matches – to move third following a first-half brace from Loic Remy.
However Rennes can retake third with a home win over Nimes on Sunday.
The defeat for Marseille also means Paris Saint-Germain can move 13 points clear at the top if they beat Bordeaux at the Parc des Princes on Sunday.
Nantes meanwhile climb to 10th after bagging their first win in six league matches and are level on 37 points with Lyon, Nice and Montpellier, who were beaten 1-0 by an Angers side that is now five points clear of the relegation zone.
All four teams are in a multi-team race for European football with four points separating Nantes and Rennes, who are fourth and sit in the Europa League spot.
Limbombe stunned the Velodrome when he stooped to head home Bamba’s cross in the 35th minute in what was the game’s first shot on target, but the hosts reacted positively to going a goal down and were level shortly after.
First Nantes goalkeeper Alban Lafont was forced into a smart save from Valentin Rongier’s long-range drive a minute after Limbombe’s opener, but the Frenchman couldn’t stop Sanson’s curling effort three minutes later.
The away side were back ahead again seven minutes after the break when Bamba pounced on Rongier losing the ball to curl home a stunning finish that was only confirmed as a goal after a long VAR check for offside.
However there was no response from Marseille this time despite the return of star man Dimitri Payet from injury, and Nantes sealed the win in stoppage time in comical fashion.
Steve Mandanda spilled Moses Simon’s shot to Bamba, who failed to control the rebound and instead sent it bouncing off the legs of unwitting Marseille defender Alvaro and into the net.
Elsewhere, Monaco failed to close the gap on the European places after their three-match winning streak came to an end with a 1-1 draw at Dijon.
They are four points behind Lille, who occupy the last Champions League spot, in fifth after Guillermo Maripan earned a point for the away side with his 79th-minute equaliser after Mama Balde had put the hosts ahead 10 minutes after the break.
Islam Slimani missed a golden chance to snatch the points for Monaco when he slammed a shot into the side netting after Youssouf Fofana had a rifled effort well saved.
The point lifts Dijon out of the drop zone on goal difference, and they are five points ahead of Amiens, who stalled sixth-placed Strasbourg’s charge for Europe with a goalless draw.
French Ligue 1 results on Saturday:
Marseille 1 (Sanson 39) Nantes 3 (Limbombe 34, Bamba 53, Alvaro 90+1-og)
Angers 1 (Bahoken 68) Montpellier 0
Strasbourg 0 Amiens 0
Dijon 1 (M. Balde 56) Monaco 1 (Maripan 79)
Lille 3 (Remy 2, 39, Sanches 72) Toulouse 0