Marseille edge Zilina to record first win
© AFP

French champions Marseille beat Slovakian side MSK Zilina 1-0 in front of a home crowd to record their first win, and pick up their first points, of their most recent UEFA Champions League campaign.

Souleymane Diawara's 48th-minute header was enough to keep alive Marseille's hopes of reaching the knockout stage for the first time since they won the competition in 1993. Current Marseille coach Didier Deschamps was the winning captain on that historic evening.

"A lot of people were expecting a fairly handsome victory," said the Marseille coach. "But it wasn't easy against a team that knew how to defend well in the first half and who gave us worries in the second. But this victory keeps alive our hopes of qualifying."

Zilina coach Pavel Hapal believed the game to be a very good match. "It was close until the 90th minute," said Hapal. "We played very well and no-one was expecting such a performance from us."

The hosts pressed hard from the whistle at Stade Velodrome, forcing five corners in the opening 15 minutes. The Marseille strikers quickly started to find their range as French international Andre-Pierre Gignac forced Zilina goalkeeper Martin Dubravka into a fine save in the 11th minute.

We played very well and no-one was expecting such a performance from us.
Zilina coach Pavel Hapal.

A brilliant piece of play by winger Mathieu Valbuena in the 25th minute almost provided the hosts with a deserved lead. Valbuena powered down the right wing, beat a defender and then found Andre Ayew with a low cross to the edge of the area, which the Ghana star fired just wide.

Zilina posed little threat up front, with gangly Gambian youngster Momodou Ceesay unable to use his superior height to much effect. However, the 21-year-old produced a goal-saving touch in the final minute of the first half to deny Marseille striker Brandao. The Brazilian, yet to score this season, looked set to end his goal drought as he was set up just two yards out by Gignac's excellent header across goal, but Ceesay did enough to distract him and he skied the ball over the bar.

Diawara broke the deadlock shortly after the break when Dubravka made a total hash of saving his downward header.

Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda was forced into his first real save of the night in the 63rd minute, as Zilina captain Robert Jez's fierce strike had the France international diving at full stretch to turn his shot away for a corner.