By Matthew Spiro in Marseille
Olympique de Marseille coach José Anigo struggled to hide his emotions after seeing his team reach the UEFA Cup final just four months after he arrived in the post.
After a goalless first leg at St James' Park, it took two Didier Drogba goals in front of a euphoric crowd at the Stade Vélodrome to fire Marseille into the final where they will meet Valencia CF in Gothenburg. For Anigo, who first joined Marseille as a 14-year-old, the evening represented one of happiest moments of his career. "My emotions are so strong right now, I'm afraid that I'm unable to put them into words," said the 43-year-old.
"Three months ago I was training the youth team, now I'm taking Marseille to a European final," added the coach, who, after masterminding wins against Liverpool FC and FC Internazionale, believes he has answered his critics. "A lot of people didn't think I could handle such a big job. They might be thinking again now."
Marseille's victory came just 24 hours after AS Monaco FC booked their place in the UEFA Champions League final, leaving open the possibility of a French double in Europe, and Anigo was keen to pay tribute to his counterpart Didier Deschamps. "I'd love to speak to him and congratulate him because what Monaco have achieved is phenomenal. Now we both have to go and bring the trophies home."
As has been the case so often this season, Drogba was Marseille's hero. The Ivory Coast striker, who has now scored against every opponent he has faced in Europe this season and has eleven goals in all, broke the deadlock with a clinical breakaway strike after 18 minutes before rifling home a second eight minutes from time.
Newcastle manager Sir Bobby Robson claimed Drogba was the difference between the sides, saying: "He was the matchwinner. He had two clear chances and scored two goals. He's a very clever player and
I am happy to hold my hands up and congratulate him."
Sir Bobby admitted the result was a bitter disappointment but refused to criticise his players, saying: "They did everything I asked of them. They played with enthusiasm and commitment and they were close to pulling it off. Two-nil is a flattering scoreline for Marseille. We were excellent after half-time and put them under real pressure. Marseille were nervous at 1-0 and if Shola [Ameobi] or Lee [Bowyer] had taken those chances, I think we'd have done it."
Newcastle winger Laurent Robert said he was impressed by Marseille. "They went at it 100 per cent and just didn't let up," the Frenchman told uefa.com. "Their fans were incredible and in the end we couldn't do it. I ran my socks off tonight, as did the whole side, and to miss out after being so close to the final really hurts."
The Marseille players, meanwhile, are turning their attentions to Gothenburg, and defender Habib Beye insisted they will take on Valencia without fear. "They could soon be crowned Spanish champions so they are obviously a top side," he said. "But we have already taken three big scalps, why not make it four?"
Midfield player Laurent Batlles, who came off the bench to set up Drogba's second, added: "In Drogba we've got one of the best players in the world. He's won the match for us tonight and I hope he goes to Sweden and wins us the final, too."
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