Marseille progressed into the quarter finals of the Champions League, despite losing 2-1 away against Inter on the night. Didier Deschamps men had won the first leg 1-0 thanks to a late Andre Ayew goal and headed into the tie as slight favourites to progress. Both sides have been struggling miserably in the league this season and the CL has been some sort of an escape route from domestic matters. For each club, this was obviously a massive match.
OM coach, Deschamps knew he had to play his big guns in this game, irrespective of whether they were carrying injuries or not. Morel, Valbuena, Remy, Amalfitano and Andre Ayew all started, despite there being question marks surrounding the fitness levels of all of them. OM lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with a couple of genuine defensive midfielders, Diarra and Mbia. It was the visitors who started brightly and made a few dangerous ventures forwards, without creating anything substantial.
Inter should’ve been ahead inside 10 minutes though and they wasted two massive chances. In separate incidents, both Sneijder and Milito hit a shot/header at goal from point blank range, but Steve Mandanda made a couple of exceptional saves to deny them both. The term ‘world class save’ can often be overused, but I think all would agree with me by saying that’s exactly what Marseille’s captain produced there.
There isn’t really much else to say about the rest of the first half, except it was pretty uneventful. The match was at times played at a decent pace and showed a strong technical level, but neither team in the final 3rd could unlock the other, producing a 0-0 stalemate at the interval. Inter knew in the 2nd half they would have to turn the screw, otherwise face elimination form the competition. OM would be happy with a draw on the road which would see them make the QFs.
The first 25 minutes of the 2nd period were again pretty uneventful. OM nearly scored through a Diarra header on the 70th min mark, but Julio Cesar made a decent save. OM were actually looking pretty comfortable and it was almost out of nowhere that Inter went 1-0 up. For those who have been following OM this year, then yes you guessed it, the origin was from yet another set piece! This time from a corner, poor marking and poor clearing gifted the ball to Milito. It took him two bites of the cherry but he eventually stabbed home from close range to make it 1-0.
The end of the match was much more frantic, with both teams clearly on edge. Cambiasso had a decent chance to make it 2-0, but he just couldn’t get his head under the ball properly from close range. It looked for all the world as if the tie was heading into extra time but half way through the 3 mins of stoppage time, OM scored a crucial away goal. Mandanda kicked the ball forward, Brandao controlled and turned superbly before slotting the ball into the back of the net past Julio Cesar
For Marseille fans it was quite simply an orgasmic goal.
The drama was yet to be complete at the San Siro. OM completely fell asleep from the resulting kick off and allowed Pazzini to waltz into the area. Mandanda instinctively tried to prevent him from scoring and brought him down inside the area. Already on a booking, the referee showed France’s number two a 2nd yellow and he was off for an early bath. Pazzini converted the penalty to make it 2-1, but it was all in vain for Inter as the final whistle went soon afterwards.
OM had lost 2-1 on the night and the tie ended 2-2 on aggregate. But the French side made it through to the QFs by virtue of away goals. Deschamps’ men have now lost their last 5 consecutive games in all competitions, but this is one match they won’t mind losing! Honestly, I think OM have a great chance when the QF draw is made. Obviously, it would be nice to avoid Barca and Real Madrid, but who’s to say those teams can’t be beaten?
Best player :- Diarra
Gave a really strong DMID performance and was very committed in the middle of the park. He gave OM a lot of steel and backbone, a key asset.
Worth a mention :- Mandanda
Was sent off late, but deserted by the defence so no real blame. Made some crucial saves early on to keep it at 0-0, had Inter scored there it might have been a different story.
Worst player :- In this instance not applicable. Everyone showed heart, fight and spirit of an Olympian. Especially with many players carrying knocks , nobody will be mentioned in this department.
(@MarseilleUK & @meatmansoccer)
*Champions League Quarter Final took place on 16/03/12 and Marseille were drawn against Bayern Munich*