Sam Allardyce refused to be laid low by a chest infection and made the journey to Marseilles yesterday but the manner of his Bolton Wanderers side's elimination from the Uefa Cup last night will be a harder irritation to shake.
Leading 1-0 - with a precious away goal, and the bubbling crowd going off the boil - a minute before the interval, a place in the last 16 was in their grasp. However, two errors by Stelios Giannakopoulos, the second of which culminated in a Tal Ben Haim own goal, saw Bolton slip out of European competition.
After the defeat, Bolton's assistant manager, Sammy Lee, said the team had to pick themselves up: "It's not the end of the journey, it's the start of the journey. They fought magnificently. There is a great spirit in the camp and they are very disappointed."
Kevin Nolan, the Bolton captain, said he will regret his side's missed chances and dubious refereeing from the goalless first leg.
Bolton almost got off to a perfect start in the fifth minute last night when Jay-Jay Okocha's free-kick took a deflection off the wall but the Marseilles goalkeeper Fabien Barthez managed to parry the ball. However, true to his form from his Manchester United days, he switched from the sublime to the ridiculous in the 25th minute, spilling a regulation Okocha cross at the feet of Stelios Giannakopoulos, who sidefooted home.
Marseilles continued to look dangerous on the break - Lorik Cana found the side netting from the left with a drive - but it was Bolton who were making all the running and could have put the tie beyond doubt. Joey O'Brien released Giannakopoulos with a long ball, the Greek winger took it down first time but Barthez saved. Abdoulaye Faye was then put through by Nolan only to be ruled offside. If he was, there was not much in it. Faye slotted home, claiming not to have heard the whistle, and was booked.
Bolton paid the price as Marseilles drew level in injury time when the exciting young winger Franck Ribery got in front of Giannakopoulos to head the ball home. Urged on by the vociferous home crowd, Marseilles came out from the break the stronger side and began to put the pressure on the Bolton defence. Oruma shot over and Samir Nasri fired wide after being teed up by Ribery on the edge of the box.
The pressure told and another Giannakopoulos mistake led to Bolton going behind in the 68th minute. The winger, in the left-back position, misjudged a long crossfield pass and allowed Habib Beye in behind him. Beye's whipped ball across the six-yard line was dangerous and Ben Haim, under pressure from Oruma, could only turn the ball into his own net.
Moments later Nolan had what would be their best chance to get back into the game but he snapped at his shot and the ball was gathered at the second attempt by Barthez. The Frenchman then showed his annoying side by rolling around as if he had been felled by a sniper, after Nolan had brushed his arm as he went for a loose ball. The Marseilles players surrounded Nolan who was booked. It proved to be the least of his worries.
Marseilles (4-5-1): Barthez; Taiwo, Ferreira (Deruda, 66), Dehu, Meite; Beye, Oruma, Cana (Civelli, 90) Nasri, Ribery (Cantareil, 79); Niang. Substitutes not used: Carrasso (gk), Andre Luis, Gimenez, Begeorgi.
Bolton Wanderers (4-5-1): Jaaskelainen; Gardner, N'Gotty, Ben Haim, O'Brien; Okocha, Speed (Vaz Te, 84), Faye (Pedersen, 72; Borgetti, 87), Nolan, Giannakopoulos; Davies. Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Hunt, Jaidi, Nakata.
Referee: M Busacca (Swit).
Uefa Cup last 16
Marseilles v Zenit Petersburg
Rapid Bucharest v Hamburg
Basle v Strasbourg
Middlesbrough v Roma
Steaua Bucharest v Real Betis
Palermo v Schalke
Udinese v Levski Sofia
Lille v Seville
First legs 9 March; second legs 15/16 MarchReuse content