Mathieu Valbuena expressed relief after helping Olympique de Marseille to their first victory in this season's UEFA Champions League but insisted the French titleholders need to continue improving if they are to qualify for the knockout stage.
Souleymane Diawara scored the only goal against MŠK Žilina, nodding in Lucho González's 48th-minute corner to revive OM's campaign following opening defeats by FC Spartak Moskva and Chelsea FC. The hosts deserved their lead after a strong first-half performance, yet they struggled to close the game out, relying on Steve Mandanda's impressive reflexes to secure the points.
Although Didier Deschamps' charges are now just three points behind second-placed Spartak, Valbuena refused to get carried away with the win, stressing that there remains much work to do. "The most important thing was getting three points, but we can play much better than we did," the France playmaker, 26, told UEFA.com. "It's tough at the moment because we're not scoring from open play. We need to be more ruthless. But the main thing is we got a goal. It's not just the strikers' job to score – every player can contribute, and thankfully Souleymane scored the goal that's got us going."
The Mediterranean club have failed to get past the group stage in their last four attempts, yet could find themselves right back in contention if they beat the Slovakian titleholders again on 3 November. Valbuena sounded cautiously optimistic, saying: "This win might launch our campaign. But in order to have a chance we must win this double-header with Žilina. We've won the first set, now we have to go there and win again. The group is open but we have to improve."
Valbuena was undoubtedly Marseille's brightest outfield player, but Mandanda also caught the eye, producing excellent saves from Tomáš Majtán and Róbert Jež as the away side pressed for an equaliser. The 25-year-old custodian was also frustrated by the Ligue 1 team's wastefulness in front of goal. "We created a huge number of chances but we're not putting them away," the OM captain reflected. "The good thing is we're getting those chances. If we keep working in training, they're going to start going in sooner or later."
The result leaves competition debutants Žilina still looking for their first point, although forward Momodou Ceesay, whose strong running posed numerous problems to Marseille's centre-backs, was not feeling downhearted. "We played very well and deserved a point," the 21-year-old Gambian told UEFA.com. "We were better than in our first two matches. We stuck to the game plan. I hope the remaining games will be like this one."
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