Florian Thauvin and Clinton Njie got the goals as Olympique de Marseille beat FC Red Bull Salzburg 2-0 at a raucous Orange Vélodrome in their UEFA Europa League semi-final, first leg on Thursday.
Thursday, April 26, 2018
UEFA Europa League, semi-final first leg
Orange Vélodrome, Marseille
Olympique de Marseille 2 - 0 FC Red bull Salzburg
A huge crowd of 62,312 turned out for OM's first European semi-final since 2004, when Didier Drogba inspired them to victory against Newcastle United in the UEFA Cup. Fourteen years on, Rudi Garcia's side have their sights set on next month's final in Lyon, and their victory here sets them up nicely ahead of next week's trip to Austria for the return leg.
Marseille had failed to score in two meetings with Salzburg in the group stage of this season's competition, but they needed just 15 minutes to take the lead on this occasion. Dimitri Payet delivered a free-kick from just outside the penalty box to the right, and Thauvin headed in at the back post, taking advantage of goalkeeper Alexander Walke's decision to come for the ball only to miss it.
Morgan Sanson fizzed a shot just wide from range shortly after that, but Salzburg steadied themselves and Austrian international right-back Stefan Lainer was a danger, testing Yohann Pelé from outside the area just before the half-hour mark.
OM suffered a blow at the start of the second half as Lucas Ocampos was forced off hurt, and moments after that Pelé was forced into a superb save to tip over a Hannes Wolf effort (53').
The visitors had done well to adapt to the intimidating atmosphere but the introduction of Njie proved crucial for the home side. The Cameroon international was brought on in place of Maxime Lopez on the hour mark and needed less than three minutes to make his mark.
Njie controlled a ball on his chest on the left wing just inside the opposition half, turned and released Payet. He then continued his run into the box where he controlled Payet's assist and prodded a shot past Walke, as the Vélodrome erupted (63').
Salzburg were unlucky not to get a goal back as substitute Fredrik Gulbrandsen crashed a half-volley off the post (77'), and they will now need to pull off quite a comeback in the return if they are to deny OM a place in the final. Then again, they beat Lazio in the quarter-finals after losing 4-2 away in the first leg.
THE PLAYER: Dimitri Payet
Payet is right back on top form just now and he teed up both goals for OM. The way he is playing it will be hard for Didier Deschamps to leave the 31-year-old out of his France World Cup squad.
THE STAT: 22
Thauvin is another Marseille World Cup hopeful. His goal that opened the scoring here leaves him on 22 in all competitions in what has been a superb campaign.