A headed goal from André Ayew three minutes into added time gave Olympique de Marseille the upper hand against FC Internazionale Milano after a close encounter in southern France.
Much had been made of the reunion between two shrewd tactical minds in Didier Deschamps and Claudio Ranieri. The Italian had spoken of his desire to avenge a semi-final loss at the hands of his French counterpart when Chelsea FC played AS Monaco FC at the semi-final stage eight years ago, but André Ayew's late intervention gave Deschamps the edge once more.
Out of form domestically, Inter appeared solid, but OM played with energy and vigour throughout. The Nerazzurri created the best opening of the first 90 minutes, Diego Forlán seeing his close-range shot saved by Steve Mandanda, but the real drama came at the end. The determined André Ayew forced a corner when his attempt was tipped wide by Júlio César, and from the set piece, nodded in Mathieu Valbuena's centre to send the home fans into raptures.
Hoping to grace the quarter-finals for the first time since they won the trophy in 1993, OM will travel to San Siro in confident mood on 13 March, when Inter will be without their suspended defender Cristian Chivu.
Marseille started at a fast pace, pinning the visitors back. Supplying crosses for the powerful Brandão was clearly an objective, and full-backs César Azpilicueta and Jérémy Morel pushed forward at every opportunity. Yet Benoît Cheyrou's deflected shot wide was the closest the French team came to troubling César early on.
Instead it was Inter, making their eighth straight appearance in the last 16, who carved out a fine chance on 11 minutes. Esteban Cambiasso surged clear and curled a pinpoint cross to the far post for Forlán whose close-range volley was tipped over by Mandanda.
With Brandão expertly marshalled by Lúcio and Walter Samuel the hosts invariably struggled to find an end product. They came very close from a free-kick on the half-hour, however, Valbuena's cross beating the offside trap only for Nicolas N'Koulou to poke an attempt against his own team-mate Alou Diarra.
Ranieri's men resisted impressively and occasionally threatened on the counterattack. Operating on the left of a midfield diamond, Cambiasso was especially menacing, twice getting in behind Azpilicueta before half-time. After setting up Mauro Zárate for a tame shot on the first occasion, the Argentinian international went for goal himself on 44 minutes, but Azpilicueta recovered to force the attempt wide.
The second period continued in similar vein, Deschamps' men pressurising but with limited success. Valbuena prompted a moment of rare danger when he jinked to the byline and crossed deep for Morel yet the defender's first-time effort flashed well wide.
Inter might have snatched victory had Dejan Stanković not struck a presentable chance straight at Mandanda following a free-kick. That would have been hard on Marseille, who kept probing until the final whistle. André Ayew nodded one chance wide and another straight at César in the final minute, but made no mistake with his third headed attempt.
©UEFA.com 1998-2014. All rights reserved.