Les Phocéens were eager to make amends after sobering league and cup defeats to Paris Saint-Germain and Annecy respectively. With that in mind, Igor Tudor’s side looked to seize the initiative early on; Alexis Sánchez brilliantly picked out Cengiz Ünder, but the Turkey international fired his first-time effort wide, before Steve Mandanda thwarted Jonathan Clauss from close range.
Rennes gradually worked their way into the contest, and Amine Gouiri was inches away from breaking the deadlock when his superb strike cannoned off the crossbar, before Pau López was called into action to push away Arnaud Kalimuendo’s header. Bruno Génésio would have been pleased with how his side competed before the break, but they were dealt a blow midway through the half when Jérémy Doku was forced off injured and replaced by Désiré Doué.
Tudor reshuffled his pack by bringing on Atalanta loanee Ruslan Malinovskyi in place of Matteo Guendouzi for the second half, but it was an unlikely source that opened the scoring. Jordan Veretout picked out Ünder with a clever quickly-taken free-kick, and the latter's cut-back across the box was slotted home at the far post by Sead Kolašinac. Rennes' players surrounded referee Eric Wattellier to protest the decision to allow the goal, but their efforts proved to be in vain and Marseille had the lead.
The visitors had a strong penalty shout turned down when Arthur Theate appeared to catch Sánchez in the box, but surprisingly, the briefest of reviews from the VAR deemed play could continue. Les Rouge et Noir were seeing the game slip away and were struggling to create any clear-cut openings until Karl Toko Ekambi and Theate both saw close-range headers go wide in quick succession.
Despite a far-from-sparkling performance, Marseille held on for three crucial points to keep the Ligue 1 title race barely alive after moving within eight points of PSG. Meanwhile, Rennes were denied a third consecutive league victory and remain nine points further back in fifth.
Flashscore Man of the Match: Cengiz Ünder (Olympique de Marseille)