Ligue 1 Daily – Marseille firmly back on track with Spartak win

Olympique de Marseille did not start the season how they would have expected. Having won the Ligue 1 title last season, Didier Deschamps targeted a fast start as crucial so that his side could immediately get themselves into the perfect position. Their aim was to not only be in contention for the title, but to also mount something close to a challenge in Europe and if possible, repeat what Deschamps did as a player in 1992 with Marseille and win the Champions League.

Of course, that didn’t happen. In the league Marseille only won once in their first five games but after a poor start they have started to turn things around. Five wins and two draws in the last eight games has helped them to climb up the league table and after 13 games, Marseille are in the much more title challenging position of fifth.

In the Champions League, Marseille also started slowly. They were shocked by Spartak Moscow at home on match day one and then brushed aside by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. That left the French Champions pointless with their European aspirations hanging by a thread. Going into a double header against MSK Žilina, Deschamps knew that his side needed to pick up maximum points against the Slovakian team. Things didn’t look good for the away trip after they stuttered to a 1-0 win at home but once in Žilina, they recorded the biggest away victory in the history of the Champions League by racking up a 7-0 victory. That win set-up a winner takes all match between Marseille and Spartak Moscow last night in Russia with the prize for the victors being a place in the last 16.

The game was a cagey affair in the opening moments with both teams opting for systems with filled midfields, meaning that both teams had to be quick on the ball. Passes were darted in and out of midfield and scoring opportunities were soon etched out for both teams. On a different day, Spartak may have scored first but they were unable to find a red shirt with their final ball.

After 18 minutes, Mathieu Valbuena opened the scoring with a strike of real quality. Andre Ayew over-hit a cross and it was redirected back into the area by Gabriel Heinze. The French international trapped the ball and spun brilliantly to strike the ball into the top corner of the net and send Marseille on their way. Spartak were not out of the match by any stretch, but the more that they pushed for an equaliser the more that Didier Deschamps’ men threatened to stretch their lead and nine minutes after the break, Loic Remy scored a goal he will never repeat.

The ball was played to the summer signing on the edge of the area but he sliced his shot, the ball looped into the air, over his marker, before landing perfectly for the striker to sweep the ball home with his right foot. The goal was too much for Spartak as they knew they had to win to go through and Wellington was sent-off for overreacting minutes later. Twenty minutes from time, Brandao scored his first goal since April to complete the victory and send Marseille through to the knock-out stages.

Auxerre, the other French team in action, saw their Champions League campaign ended by a 2-0 defeat to A.C. Milan. They are currently bottom of Group G but if they can better Ajax’s result on match day 6, they will qualify for the Europa League.

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