How did Joey Barton fare on his Marseille debut?


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Barton in a rare physical tussle with Fenerbahce's Alex de Souza at Sukru Saracoglu Stadium (AFP)

Despite the hype surrounding Joey Barton's first appearance in a Marseille shirt following his loan move from QPR, the midfielder put in a low-key display as his new side drew 2-2 with Fenerbahce in the Europa League.

The controversial Englishman opted for discretion over exuberance as he took his bow for the French club, putting in a no-frills display over the 70 minutes he was on the pitch in Istanbul.

Barton, who has not featured since getting sent off in the final game of last season's Premier League against Manchester City, did not try to impose himself too physically before tiring with 20 minutes remaining.

The 30-year-old is banned from playing in Ligue 1 as he serves a 12-match suspension imposed by the FA for his moments of madness in Manchester, but is free to play in the Europa League.

When Barton was withdrawn, Marseille appeared to be headed for defeat at 2-0 down but a rousing comeback saw OM grab a share of the spoils with goals from Mathieu Valbuena and Andre Ayew.

Signed for his box-to-box tenacity, Barton was less mobile on his debut and a lack of rhythm to his game was understandably evident, given that he has not played competitive football since May 13.

Simplicity was the key for Barton in front of a fervent Sükrü Saraçoglu crowd, playing it simple and regularly seeking out the player nearest him. He got forward less than usual and was not always the first option when OM looked to spark an attack, the ball more often than not going through their wingers or Charles Kaboré.

Barton did, however, make two notable sorties into Turkish territory which resulted in a couple of shots, one which was blocked and the other screwed wide of the mark.

As for his reputation as a hard man which went with him across the Channel, again Barton was restrained. Any Marseille fans hoping to see Barton biting opponents' legs with snappy challenges would have been disappointed as he refrained from making any tough tackles and was pulled up for just one foul.

Instead, Barton relied on regaining possession by intercepting wayward passes, an approach that resulted in a solid performance, although too simple to have any real influence on the outcome.

But Barton, who is expected to take his bow at the Stade Velodrome in early October against Limassol, was suitably satisfied with his first outing in Marseille colours.

"I'm very proud to have played my first game for Olympique de Marseille," Barton told the club's official website. "We really do have a very good team, a team that plays together. The team is ambitious and plays good football.

"It was a very difficult match against an excellent opponent in a fantastic stadium with a truly amazing atmosphere. I was really impressed by the team's great spirit and we fought back to get a draw. I loved that spirit.

"Physically, I'm not 100 per cent after four months without a game, but I'm getting there. What really surprised me the most is to go from a slower rhythm in training to a match like that played at an intense rhythm."

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