Marseille run riot to raise hopes
Marseille moved a point behind both AC Milan and Real Madrid at the summit of Group C in the UEFA Champions League, thanks to a comprehensive 6-1 defeat of FC Zurich tonight.
Two set-piece goals in the opening ten minutes - an own-goal from Silvan Aegerter and Fabrice Abriel's free-kick from out wide - put OM two up and in control of the contest. Alexandre Alphonse pulled one back after 31 minutes, but Marseille restored their two-goal advantage through Mamadou Niang's strike seven minutes into the second period. Vitorino Hilton, Benoit Cheyrou and Brandao were on target in the final ten minutes to put a gloss on the scoreline as Marseille picked up a second win over the Swiss side in succession.
With Milan and Real sharing a 1-1 draw at the San Siro tonight, Marseille go into their final two group fixtures - away to Milan and at home to Real - knowing their passage to the last 16 is in their own hands. Marseille went into the match against Zurich in largely uninspired form on all fronts, having drawn Saturday's Ligue 1 match at home to Toulouse 1-1 - the third time from their last four attempts, in all competitions, that they have failed to win at the Velodrome.
But the visitors made a woeful start, conceding twice in the opening ten minutes. First, a whipped set-piece from Abriel was inadvertently directed into his own goal by Aegerter's glancing header from six yards on four minutes.
The visitors were then forced into an early change, with Johan Vonlanthen replaced by Admir Mehmedi before their fortunes were damaged further by conceding a second on ten minutes. Abriel's delivery was again the problem, with the ball evading everyone to find the top corner from 35 yards out on the left.
Cheyrou forced visiting goalkeeper Johnny Leoni to tip over his 12-yard shot and Brandao fired over from close range as Marseille sought a third, before Zurich replied after 31 minutes. Dusan Djuric played in Alphonse and he drilled a right-foot shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
Cheyrou again forced Leoni into a save, this time from 30 yards, before an Abriel inswinging corner found Souleymane Diawara, who headed over. Zurich substitute Mehmedi fired a left-foot shot from 12 yards over early in the second period.
Leoni was soon in action again at the other end, saving a header from Garry Bocaly as Marseille attempted to restore their two-goal advantage. Gabriel Heinze shot wide from a free-kick after a foul on Bakari Kone before Marseille did find a third after 52 minutes. Kone found Niang, who lobbed Leoni from 12 yards.
Hannu Tihinen had a shot blocked by Steve Mandanda as Zurich tried in vain to breach the Marseille defence for a second time. The hosts then went down the other end for a fourth, with Hilton drilling a right-foot shot into the bottom corner.
Zurich collapsed in the final three minutes, conceding twice more as Cheyrou fired in a stunning long-range shot before Brandao swept Niang's cross into the top corner from six yards to complete the rout.