By Matthew Spiro at the Stade Vélodrome
Olympique de Marseille were eliminated from the UEFA Champions League despite producing a spirited display against Group F leaders Real Madrid CF. The French club dominated for long periods but goals from David Beckham and Ronaldo were enough to seal a 2-1 win for visitors.
Madrid lined up with their full array of superstars, despite having already sealed their place in the last 16. Among those selected was French international Zinedine Zidane who, making a return to the city of his birth, received a standing ovation before kick-off from the appreciative crowd.
Spurred on by an electric atmosphere, it was the home team who settled quickest - and they could have been two up inside seven minutes. First Didier Drogba found space to run into between the Madrid central defenders, but the Ivory Coast striker shot wide of Iker Casillas's goal under pressure from Raúl Bravo.
Moments later, Ahmed Hossam 'Mido' had an even better chance when Philippe Christanval's long pass broke the Madrid offside trap, but the striker's attempted lob sailed over the crossbar from 20 metres. Marseille continued to play at a high tempo, closing down the Madrid players all over the pitch, and Casillas had to react quickly to punch out Mido's header.
The Spanish champions posed their first threat of the game just before the half-hour. Luís Figo teased Johnny Ecker on the left before crossing to the far post for Ronaldo, who headed dangerously back across the box. Raúl González was set to pounce when Daniel Van Buyten intervened at the last moment to clear.
Nevertheless, it came against the run of play when the visitors took the lead on 35 minutes. Zidane played a slide-rule pass to Ronaldo on the edge of the area, and when the Brazilian was tripped by Christanval the scene was set perfectly for Beckham. The England captain did not disappoint, stepping up and curling an exquisite free-kick into the top corner.
Marseille pushed forward in search of an equaliser at the start of the second half, and Raúl Bravo had to produce an excellent tackle to prevent Mido running through on goal after Drogba's precise pass. Drogba was in the thick of the action again four minutes later, holding the ball up before laying it off for Stepan Vachousek, but the midfield player's low 25-metre drive was well saved by Casillas at his near post.
Mido makes pressure tell
The pressure began to mount on the Madrid goal, and Drogba thought he had scored a minute before the hour when he met Abdoulaye Méïté's cross at the near post, but the striker's shot was deflected wide for a corner. Marseille did finally get the goal they had threatened four minutes later, however, after more good work on the right wing from Méïté. The defender picked out Vachousek in the penalty area and his chipped cross was headed emphatically into the net by Mido from close range.
Chances at both ends
The home fans were soon on their feet again when Camel Meriem crossed from the left, but Drogba's header flashed fractionally over. The game became stretched and Figo had already missed with a free header when Madrid retook the lead on 73 minutes. Zidane slipped Raúl González through on the left and the Madrid captain cut the ball back for Ronaldo to prod in a low shot.
Marseille kept attacking, and Casillas had to produce a stunning stop to deny Drogba from point-blank range in the closing seconds. The home side's last chance had gone.