Heinze revives Marseille hopes
A rare moment of quality from Marseille's Gabriel Heinze settled a poor UEFA Champions League contest with FC Zurich this evening. The Argentinian defender volleyed home on 69 minutes to settle a Group C game that never ignited at the Letzigrund stadium.
After defeats by AC Milan and Real Madrid, the win represented the first points of the campaign for Marseille, who put themselves back into the qualification picture, and also broke a run of six straight Champions League away defeats.
In just the second minute, Marseille had the ball in the net. After Lucho Gonzalez was fouled, he took the free-kick, touching it on to Benoit Cheyrou, whose shot was parried by Johnny Leoni in the Zurich goal. Brandao followed up and nodded the ball home, but was adjudged to be offside.
The half continued in scrappy fashion, the best moment coming on 21 minutes, when Milan Gajic's left-foot shot for Zurich skimmed wide of the near post, but Marseille came to life in the closing moments. After 42 minutes, Mathieu Valbuena was freed down the left and crossed for Hilton, but the Brazilian defender could not keep his header down.
Moments later Mamadou Niang advanced down the right and sent in a low cross for Brandao. His effort was too central but still drew a fine reflex stop from Leoni. Gonzalez then sent a curling effort wide of the far post with Leoni scrambling.
Within 90 seconds of the restart, Zurich finally tested Steve Mandanda in the Marseille goal. Johan Vonlanthen cut inside and his fierce shot was dipping under the bar, before Mandanda turned it over. At the other end, Brandao sent a dangerous ball across the six-yard box but nobody could get on the end of it.
Still, though, there was little quality on display, so the goal when it came was somewhat out of the blue. Gonzalez crossed from the right and Heinze was unmarked beyond the far post to send a neat side-foot volley curling back past Leoni into the far corner.
Moments later Zurich could have levelled when Gajic's free-kick from deep evaded everyone and bounced just in front of Mandanda, who bundled the ball behind. There was a moment of panic for Marseille when Mandanda flapped at a corner late on, while Alain Rochat headed over in stoppage time, but the hosts, who beat Milan 1-0 at the San Siro last time out, rarely threatened.