Anything is possible now for high-rish Marseille
Wednesday 07 December 2011
Olympique Marseille's patchy season has suddenly come to life in recent weeks and if they show the same fighting spirit that helped them snatch a last-gasp Champions League knockout berth then "anything is possible" in the coming months.
Didier Deschamps' side were on the brink of missing out on the last 16 on Tuesday until substitute Mathieu Valbuena's exquisite 87th-minute goal sealed a stunning 3-2 comeback win at Borussia Dortmund.
The German champions had led 2-0 and with Olympiakos Piraeus beating Group F winners Arsenal in Greece, the French side were heading for the exit door before an astonishing revival led the usually cool Deschamps to go wild on the touchline.
"Tonight has been a tortuous result, we could have avoided such a high-risk situation," Deschamps told reporters.
"But this year the players are learning about the Champions League. This result will give them confidence and experience. A game is never finished, anything is possible until the referee blows his whistle."
Deschamps had taken his own high risk gamble in taking off first goalscorer and main threat Loic Remy to introduce Valbuena but once Andre Ayew's 85th minute header had levelled the scores, the small winger repaid the faith in some style.
He danced past three defenders and sent a superb dipping shot into the net.
A goal of such quality and importance is unlikely to be repeated in Europe's top club competition this season and may lead to the occasional France player earning more Marseille starts.
"He has endured some difficult personal moments because he was playing little. But that goal was decisive for us, I'm happy for him but also for the team," Deschamps said.
Marseille's triumph followed a 3-0 win over arch-rivals and big-spending French title favourites Paris St Germain at the end of last month which has helped the 2010 Ligue 1 champions move up to seventh in the table after a dreadful start.
They now have significant momentum and lie 12 points behind unaccustomed leaders Montpellier.
In Europe, some of the continent's top clubs will be licking their lips at the prospect of facing Marseille in February's last 16 but the French side gave Manchester United a mild fright at the same stage last year.
The Stade Velodrome, even in a phase of construction, is a difficult ground for any away side to visit and Marseille can cause more surprises if they continue to combine a never-say-die attitude with a dash of French panache.
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