Souleymane Diawara's second-half header ignited Olympique de Marseille's qualification chances in Group F as the French champions edged past MŠK Žilina to register their first points.
With both sides looking to recover from defeats by Chelsea FC and FC Spartak Moskva this was never likely to be a classic, but it was Didier Deschamps' men who got the result they needed to kick-start their campaign. The 1993 European champions deserved the victory after creating a host of chances and taking a 48th-minute lead, although poor finishing led to a nervy finish with Steve Mandanda pulling off two fine saves. The triumph takes OM to within three points of second-placed Spartak ahead of the return fixture in Slovakia on 3 November.
Still looking for their first goal in this season's competition, OM adopted a shoot-on-sight policy. Mathieu Valbuena was off target with a pair of long-range efforts and André-Pierre Gignac twice forced saves from Martin Dúbravka inside the first 20 minutes, the second a fine stop from the striker's curling attempt.
It had been a purposeful start from the hosts and they almost got their reward on 25 minutes, André Ayew volleying fractionally wide after some superb wing play from Valbuena. The France playmaker was a livewire, proving almost impossible to dispossess, yet for all their eye-catching approach play the Ligue 1 outfit struggled to find a final touch. Indeed, a frustrating opening period was summed up in the dying seconds when Brandão scooped over from point-blank range after Gignac had nodded cleverly back across goal.
Marseille's relentless pressure eventually told shortly after the restart. Dúbravka could only divert Diawara's downward header in off the bar after the Senegalese defender had risen gracefully to meet Lucho's delivery. The relief in the stadium was palpable, although the visitors reacted positively and came close to silencing the home fans on two occasions either side of the hour.
Mandanda rescued OM both times, first deflecting Tomáš Majtán's lob wide as the striker burst onto Momodou Ceesay's flick, then pulling off a wonderful reflex save from Róbert Jež's thunderous left-footed volley. Scoring goals has been a problem for Pavel Hapal's charges in Europe and they were again left ruing a lack of ruthlessness. Tomáš Oravec, scorer of their solitary goal against Chelsea, had a final chance in added time but the substitute shot over from 20 metres as the Slovakian titleholders missed an opportunity to prise their first point.
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