Olympique success in Europa League
By D. Crossan
Olympique de Marseille and Olympique Lyonnais both scored impressive wins in the first leg of the round of 16 of the UEFA Europa League. OM were 3-1 home victors against Athletic Bilbao and OL won 1-0 at CSKA Moscow.
Thursday, March 8, 2018
UEFA Europa League, Round of 16 1st leg
OM were good value for the lead they'll take to the Basque country next Thursday and played some superbly entertaining football. The one negative for Rudi Garcia was Florian Thauvin being stretchered off with an ankle injury just past the hour. The French international winger had provided a stunning assist as Lucas Ocampos turned in a first-minute opener to give the hosts the perfect start.
After a run of four games without a win in all competitions it was important for OM to build on that opening and, after Steve Mandanda had made a fine save (6'), Dimitri Payet slammed home a volley after chesting down an awful Xabier Etxelta clearance. Valère Germain was twice denied in one-on-ones (17' and 18') by Iago Herrerin.
Athletic Bilbao pulled a goal back on the stroke of half-time when Adil Rami was harshly penalised for handball and veteran Aritz Aduriz beat Mandanda from 12 yards. OM had deserved more and they restored the two-goal advantage (58') when Payet crossed from the right and Ocampos scored his second of the night as Herrerin could only help the ball across the line. OM are well placed to avenge their exit to Bilbao in the round of 32 of this competition two years ago.
VEB Arena, Moscow
CSKA Moscow 0-1 Olympique Lyonnais
It was a relief for OL to return to European action following a six-game winless run in Ligue 1 Conforama that has seen the club fall to five points off the podium. OL, semi-finalists in this competition last season, have extra motivation this time around as the final will be played at Groupama Stadium on May 16.
Ahmed Musa drew a save from Anthony Lopes (17') but otherwise OL looked in control in freezing conditions. Memphis Depay had a curling free-kick saved by Igor Akinfeev (62') and five minutes later the Dutchman set up the winning goal. A left-wing corner was greeted by an emphatic Marcelo header as the Brazilian returned to form following an iffy spell in the league.
OL were close to having an extra goal to take home with them when Akinfeev saved from Mariano Diaz with ten minutes left to play. The attacker had another chance (87') and Bruno Genesio will hope his side don't live to regret not burnishing their advantage when it comes to the second leg in France next Thursday. The fact they won at all was down to Lopes making a late save from Fyodor Chalov. This was OL's first-ever win in Russia at their fourth attempt.