Olympique de Marseille missed the chance to go five points clear in Group A but young midfielder Mathieu Valbuena feels they can be pleased with their 1-1 draw at home against FC Porto.
'A good point'
Despite Mamadou Niang's scrambled opener, few could dispute that Lucho González's 79th-leveller from the penalty spot was fair reward for the Portuguese champions, particularly after their first-half demonstration in the arts of ball retention and technique. "It was frustrating to concede a late equaliser but we need to admit it's a good point because we were up against an excellent Porto side," conceded Valbuena. "They were strong physically, impressive going forward and really made life difficult at the start. Their quality surprised us and we got lucky when they hit the post twice."
Instead of crumbling under that early pressure, the hosts managed to lift themselves after the break, and Valbuena credits new coach Erik Gerets with having given the team new steel after just a month in the job. "His arrival has helped us a lot," the 23-year-old said. "We've made enormous progress, both individually and collectively, and you could see how hard we worked for each other tonight. Everything's starting to fall into place and I think his and our efforts will be rewarded."
'A win away'
With seven points on the board, the rewards could potentially come very soon. Marseille visit Porto on 6 November knowing victory would secure qualification, and their diminutive midfielder believes they can pull it off. "We're a win away and that's going to be a big night," he said. "It'll be another really tough game, with their fans pushing them on. They're the best team we've faced so far, but if we repeat the good things we did against Liverpool [FC] and in the second half here we can get a result."
Marseille's unexpected 1-0 triumph at Anfield is a valid reference point, and one Valbuena is unlikely to forget in a hurry. His winner from distance marked the arrival of a player once told he was too short to succeed, and he is unsurprisingly savouring every moment of his introduction to the UEFA Champions League. "It's a prestigious competition that a lot of players never get to experience," he said. "I'm only 23, so to be playing at the top level in Europe is fantastic. I hope it continues and I hope we can have a good run – for myself and for everyone at the club."
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