Olympique de Marseille 2-1 Ajax
The hosts started the match with attacking intentions and got their first chance after six minutes of play. Nigerian defender Taye Taiwo stepped up after the referee awarded Marseille a free kick, but his powerful effort went over the bar.
The next opportunity was for the Amsterdam outfit. Holland international Urby Emanuelson set up tricky winger Miralem Sulejmani, who sent in a low cross towards forward Luis Suarez. However, Ajax’s star player failed to meet the ball and the chance went begging.
Marseille grabbed the lead from out of nowhere in the 18th minute. Former Auxerre midfielder Benoit Cheyrou opted to unleash a long range strike and the shot surprised Ajax goalie Kenneth Vermeer, resulting in a 1-0 lead for the home side.
Ajax were struggling to open up the French defence, despite long periods of possession, while Marseille look dangerous on the counter attack. Strong forward Mamadou Niang almost added his name to the score-sheet around the hour mark, but his header fly wide of the target.
Nevertheless, the Senegalese international managed to find the net only minutes later with a beautiful effort. A low cross reached the striker and Niang back-heeled the ball in the back of the net with an amazing touch.
The Dutch outfit didn’t give up though and pegged one back in the 33rd minute. Cameroonian midfielder Eyong Enoh was fouled in the box and the referee had no other choice but to award Ajax a spot kick. Uruguayan attacker Suarez calmly placed the ball past Marseille goalie Steve Mandanda.
The Marseille attack caused Gregory van der Wiel all kinds of trouble and the hot prospect received his marching orders after 41 minutes. The right-back made two stupid fouls within five minutes and had no right to complain about the two bookings.
Ajax head coach Marco van Basten opted to replace Emanuelson with right back Bruno Silva in order to restore his four-man defence. The substitution was the second for Ajax in the first half as Rasmus Lindgren was replaced by Robbert Schilder in the 23rd minute due to injury.
Neither of the two teams impressed moments after the break and it took until the 54th minute before the first shot was unleashed. The Ajax defence failed to clear the ball and Taiwo picked up the loose ball before trying to test Vermeer. However, his shot went yards wide and didn’t cause the Ajax goalie any trouble.
A free kick for Ajax around the hour mark could have resulted in a dangerous situation in front of the French goal. Nevertheless, Sulejmani’s set piece lacked speed and direction and was easily cleared before Vermaelen could meet the ball.
A nice through pass reached Niang after 67 minutes. The quick striker escaped the offside trap and sent in a dangerous low cross from the right. Belgian defender Toby Alderweireld beat Mathieu Valbuena to the ball though and Vermeer picked up the loose ball to prevent more damage.
Niang came close to doubling his personal tally in the 72nd minute. A long pass reached Boudewijn Zenden, who set up Niang with a perfect header. The striker didn’t hesitate to fire the ball towards the Ajax goal, but saw Vermeer tip his shot against the far post.
The rebound ended up in the feet of Cheyrou, but once again Vermeer parried his powerful effort from 15 yards.
Marseille dominated the match and caused the Ajax defenders all kinds of trouble via Boudewijn Zenden on the left wing. One of his crosses reached defender Laurent Bonnart, who headed the ball straight towards the top corner. However, Vermeer denied the right back with a superb save.
Once again Zenden flew in a dangerous free kick from the left wing that reached Mamadou Samassa. The young attacker failed to get his header on target though and squandered the chance about ten minutes before the final whistle.
Marseille: Mandanda; Bonnart, Civelli, Hilton, Taiwo; Cheyrou, Cana (M’Bami/46), Valbuena, Ben Arfa (Zenden/68); Niang, Kone(Samassa/74)
Ajax: Vermeer; Alderweireld, Van der Wiel, Oleguer, Vermaelen; Enoh, Lindgren (Schilder/23), Aissati; Sulejmani, Suarez (Leonardo/83), Emanuelson (Silva/43)
1-0, Cheyrou 18’
2-0, Niang 32’
2-1, Suarez 34’
Stefan Coerts, Goal.com