Lyon defender Milan Bisevac hailed Mathieu Valbuena for the way the midfielder handled a hostile return to Marseille on Sunday.
Valbuena made his first appearance at Marseille’s Stade Velodrome since leaving the south coast club for Dynamo Moscow in August 2014, and the local fans were not happy to see the France international.
Early in the second half, Valbuena delayed taking a corner as objects targeting him were hurled onto the pitch, while just after the hour mark; referee Ruddy Buquet temporarily suspended the match when more missiles were thrown at Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes.
While Lyon coach Hubert Fournier conceded his team did not handle the 15-minute disruption well, Bisevac was impressed by Valbuena’s composure.
“Valbuena reacted well,” the Serbian central defender told Lyon’s website.
“He is a great player with a lot of experience.”
Valbuena was targeted on and off the pitch.
Before the match, Marseille fans hung an effigy of the diminutive playmaker, while he was crunched by Marseille’s Romain Alessandrini just before half-time, which resulted in the latter being sent off.
But the 30-year-old insisted he remains fond of the club where he played for eight Ligue 1 campaigns.
“I was fine. I took a beating. This is my game,” Valbuena said.
“It’s weird to play against OM. I know everyone here. It’s very special.
“There was a large twinge in my heart. I put all my emotions aside.”
After Alexandre Lacazette gave Lyon the lead in the 25th minute after he was awarded a soft penalty, Marseille fans were incensed when the home side’s Benjamin Mendy was judged to have dived in the box in the 61st minute.
That prompted scenes that forced Buquet to take the players off the pitch and following the resumption, Marseille equalised thanks to Karim Rekik’s header from a 68th-minute corner.
“The second half was complicated. The game has been stopped more than 15 minutes,” Fournier said.
“After that, Marseille came back better than us. We were not into the game the first five minutes following the interruption. We gave away the ball and took the risk to be punished.”
Marseille coach Michel argued his team played better after Alessandrini’s red card but was worried the club’s supporters may see the Stade Velodrome empty in the coming weeks.
“I am of course against all situations that could lead us to play in front of an empty stadium because without supporters, football is no longer a show,” he told Marseille’s website.
“Our supporters are able to help the team. With an empty stadium, it would be difficult. “