It wasn’t a particularly convincing showing from the French side, but against the Greeks, they had just enough to take three points in a hard-fought encounterOlympique de Marseille opened up their Champions League campaign with a 1-0 win in Athens over an Olympiakos side playing their first competitive fixture of the season.
There were few signs of rustiness in the home side’s play, and Marseille had to work very hard for their success, which came courtesy of a neat Lucho Gonzalez goal soon after the half-time interval. OM finished with 10 men as Rod Fanni was dismissed.
Though Marseille should have scored within two minutes of the start, Souleymane Diawara firing high from close range, it would be the hosts who enjoyed the best of the early exchanges. OM’s defence has been the subject of significant criticism to date this season, and their lack of confidence was evident in the first 20 minutes, during which a number of misunderstandings could have been fatal.
Kevin Mirallas would have Olympiakos’ best chance, but he scuffed a tame effort wide after Ljubomir Fejsa had out-muscled the napping Benoit Cheyrou.
The Marseille midfielder would have a more positive impact in the latter stages of the first period, when the Ligue 1 runners-up came back into the game. A powerful shot from the 30-year-old flashed over, and only a couple of minutes later a fine header from the same player went only a foot too high.
Less than 10 minutes from the break, OM created the best opening of the half but Loic Remy’s forceful shot hit the post, while at the other end some stunning skills from Kevin Mirallas were not matched by his finish, which was tame and easily saved by Steve Mandanda.
It took the guests only six second half minutes to register as Jeremy Morel cut to the byline and had his low cross neatly guided home at the near post by Lucho.
Visibly more confident for a period, Didier Deschamps’ men nearly doubled their lead, but Cheyrou’s fierce hit was turned over by Franco Costanzo.
Having conceded leads regularly in Ligue 1, it was little surprise to see Marseille sit back in the closing stages, and though they were largely comfortable, substitute Rafik Djebbour gave them a major scare with a difficult volley that was only a little too high. Djamel Abdoun also had a sight of goal, but he failed to catch his shot adequately.
In stoppage time Fanni was dismissed for a misguided lunge, but the French side navigated this period successfully.
Minus several influential attackers, Marseille will be delighted to have got their Champions League campaign off to a winning start, particularly away from home, but with tests against Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund to come, life only gets tougher for the Frenchmen from now on.