Olympique de Marseille qualified for the UEFA Cup after fending off a late FK Partizan charge to secure third spot in UEFA Champions League Group F with a 1-1 draw in Belgrade.
Bad run ended
Marseille's run of results without a victory - they have been beaten in six of their previous seven games in all competitions - therefore continued but their sequence of defeats in their last seven away games in the Champions League is at least over.
Partizan needed to win to progress and they had the better of possession and created more chances in the first half. But Marseille held firm and took the lead after 60 minutes against the run of play through a Ahmed Hossam 'Mido' header. Partizan fought back and Andrija Delibašic got a deserved equaliser late on to leave them with ten minutes in which to chase a winner.
Marseille coach Alain Perrin surprisingly dropped goalkeeper Vedran Runje to the bench and brought in 20-year-old Jérémy Gavanon for his European debut. Partizan were boosted by the presence of Tomasz Rzasa who passed a late fitness test, and started the stronger. Wing-back Milivoje Cirkovic was an immediate threat down the right and the visitors were forced to put two markers on him at times.
Profligate captain Ilic
Cirkovic was the architect of the first chance just after the ten-minute mark: he evaded tackles from Johnny Ecker and Brahim Hemdani before his cross broke to Saša Ilic in the area. From six metres out, the Partizan captain scooped the ball over.
Marseille took a hit when captain Philippe Christanval was forced off injured after only 15 minutes, but that coincided with an improved spell for the visitors, culminating in their best effort of the first period. Forward Didier Drogba had seen his weak shot parried around the post by Djordje Pantic and defender Daniel Van Buyten leapt highest to the corner that followed. His header looked destined for the net but Igor Duljaj popped up to head clear from right under the crossbar. It was a let-off for the hosts.
In fact, they were unlucky to go into the break with the scores level. After long-range shots from Vladimir Ivic and Ivica Iliev sailed wide, they were awarded a free-kick on the left corner of the area. For the first time, Gavanon was beaten by Nikola Malbaša's curling effort but the ball struck the crossbar.
Danger on the break
However the young Gavanon was a solid presence and continued to impress in the second period. Cirkovic again broke down the right and crossed for Delibašic, whose header was well stopped by the leaping goalkeeper.
Mido heads home
Partizan threw more players forward as they looked for the vital goal, leaving them short at the back and one breakaway led to Marseille's goal. Mido turned his marker Branko Savic just inside the Partizan half and was brought down. Hemdani's resulting free-kick was taken quickly and Partizan's defence was slow to pick up Mido, who directed the ball past Pantic and into the net.
Partizan go close
The goal stunned the crowd but Partizan continued attacking: Iliev almost beat Gavanon but his shot grazed the post, while Malbaša capped a frustrating night with a volley that flew off target.
Delibašic offers hope
The equaliser eventually came on 80 minutes when Van Buyten's poor back-header flew towards substitute Habib Beye. Delibašic shrugged him off the ball and headed past Gavanon. Partizan almost scored a winner when Iliev broke clear and shot fiercely at Gavanon. But the youngster blocked well from close range and it was his heroics that saw Marseille through to the UEFA Cup.