Controversial Barton keeps his head on Ligue 1 debut
Joey Barton could have been sent off on his Ligue 1 debut but the controversial English midfielder also showed a cool head as his new team Olympique Marseille beat Lille 1-0 on Sunday.
Barton, suspended by the English FA after being sent off for violent conduct in QPR’s final Premier League match of last season against Manchester City, made a low-key start as his team struggled to cope with Lille’s midfield domination.
But his first serious tackle earned a yellow card as he stamped on Balmont’s ankle, a foul that could easily have drawn a straight red.
It was Balmont, however, who was sent off on the stroke of halftime and Barton wisely stayed out of the ensuing brawl after referee Laurent Duhamel brandished his card.
Barton arrived in France on loan from QPR following a colourful career in England during which he spent two and a half months in prison for assault during a night out in Liverpool.
At the time of the attack, he was already on bail for attacking former Manchester City team mate Ousmane Dabo and he also stubbed out a cigar in the eye of a youth-team player at the club in 2004.
Barton covered almost 10 kilometres during the match against Lille and even tried to calm down his team mates in the second half when a heated exchange took place between opposing players.
The 30-year-old Barton, who had played for Marseille in the Europa League, did a decent job in bringing the ball forward and went close to doubling Marseille’s tally in the 68th minute when his 25-metre strike flew just wide.
The Marseille fans chanted his name and some stood up when he was replaced by Loic Remy in the 74th minute to a round of applause.
“I’m happy. It takes a little bit of time to be a hundred percent fit,” Barton, who added a few words in French, told French TV channel Canal Plus.