Bolton emerged from their first experience of the knock-out stages of the Uefa Cup with a creditable draw against seasoned campaigners, but that might not be enough to take into the second leg next Thursday with any confidence.
The Wanderers had their chances, notably at least a couple of legitimate claims for a penalty, but their more sophisticated opponents produced some football of an elegance that would have brought a winner but for the efforts of Jussi Jaaskelainen in the Bolton goal.
"Everyone tried their best to get that all-important 1-0,'' said the Bolton manager, Sam Allardyce. "It's going to be very difficult now, but we've got a chance.''
The Wanderers would have had more than a chance if the Portuguese referee had seen the Marseilles defender, Frédéric Dehu, stick up his arm and knock away a 37th minute cross from Jay-Jay Okocha, who gave a few glimpses of his old Bolton form in the first half. "From the referee's position, there was no chance he was obstructed, so we simply cannot understand why he didn't give it,'' Allardyce said.
Bolton had three other possible penalties, the best of them probably when Lorik Cana brought down Stelios Giannakopoulos in the second-half. "But if he didn't give the first one, he wasn't going to give anything,'' Allardyce said.
Bolton's chances were not confined to penalty appeals. The revitalised Okocha forced a good save from the familiar figure of Fabien Barthez, who also denied the substitute Ricardo Vaz Te, with an instinctive save.
Allardyce would have had even more of a complaint against the officials if Giannakopoulos had put a last-minute header into the net rather than the side netting, as the assistant's flag was up when the Greek was, according to Allardyce, clearly onside.
Marseilles, whose previous scalps included Newcastle and Liverpool on their way to the 2004 final of this competition, played some delightful football at times, especially when their elusive winger, Franck Ribéry, was involved. Ribéry, along with Mamadou Niang and Wilson Oruma, missed several chances, while Jaaskelainen had to make two good saves from the Nigerian left-back Taye Taiwo.
Marseilles should really have won it in the few minutes after half-time when Niang and Ribéry set up Oruma, who shot wide, and a mistake from the former Marseilles defender Bruno N'Gotty,put Niang through. Jaaskelainen showed great bravery and timing to save at his feet and had to repeat the performance later in the half.
"One-nil would have been a great result, but we're not out of it,'' insisted Allardyce, who revealed that his striker El Hadji Diouf is facing a hernia operation after suffering an injury playing for Senegal during the African Nations' Cup. It will only be known after the surgery how long he will be missing.
Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; O'Brien, Ben Haim, N'Gotty, Gardner; Nolan, Okocha (Speed, 60), Faye, Giannakopoulos; Davies, Borgetti (Vaz Te, 67). Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Hunt, Jaidi, Perez, Fogut.
Marseilles (5-3-2): Barthez; Ferreira, Beye, Déhu, Cesar, Taiwo; Nasri (Gimenez, 73), Cana, Oruma; Ribéry, Niang (Cantareil, 89). Substitutes not used: Carrasso (gk), Delfim, Meite, Civelli, Deruda.
Referee: O Benquerenca (Portugal).Reuse content