Benoît Cheyrou believes Olympique de Marseille produced an "Italian-style performance" to defeat FC Internazionale Milano 1-0 in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie on Wednesday.
Marseille needed to show great patience against a well-organised Inter side that defended excellently and occasionally threatened Steve Mandanda's goal on the counterattack. Although OM created few clear chances themselves, they peppered the away defence with crosses and long-range shots, eventually getting their reward in added time when André Ayew nodded in Mathieu Valbuena's corner.
It may not have been Marseille's most flamboyant display of the season but Cheyrou feels its controlled nature was proof the team have grown up. "You could say we won the game the Italian way," the 30-year-old midfielder told UEFA.com.
"It was a very serious performance against a team that defended well. We didn't have many opportunities but the game swung on a set piece at the end. Small details tend to decide big Champions League matches. This shows that we are now better at dealing with big matches like this than we were in the past."
Another clear indication of the Ligue 1 club's maturity was the fact nobody in the home dressing room was getting carried away with the win. "We're only at the halfway point," Cheyrou pointed out. "We know it's going to be very hard to get a result over there. Inter are a great team with a lot of great players. But it's always better to win the first game. Now we'll go to Milan with a lot of desire and a lot of ambition."
Match winner Ayew, meanwhile, was keen to stress that the hardest part is still to come with the trip to San Siro on 13 March. "We turned in a really strong collective performance," said the 22-year-old forward, who now has four goals in this season's competition. "We fought together. But the most important match is in Milan. It'll be very hard over there.
"Inter came here as favourites and they caused us a lot of problems," the Ghanaian international continued. "They are intelligent and have more experience of playing these games. We pushed hard, though. The fans were behind us – we really felt their support – and we got the goal in the end."
Didier Deschamps' men have fared well on their travels this term, picking up seven points away from home in the group stage. Furthermore, they are likely to have striker Loïc Rémy available again for the second leg. Midfielder Morgan Amalfitano knows they will be close to the quarter-finals if they score in Italy.
"We have a big game over there," Amalfitano said. "They need to score so they'll come at us a bit more. If we can exploit the space and score a goal then we'll be in a strong position. But we know we are not yet through. We're only at the halfway stage."
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