Benoít Cheyrou's back-heel five minutes before half-time has made Olympique de Marseille firm favourites to reach the UEFA Champions League group stage.
Cheyrou's touch from a right-wing Hatem Ben Arfa cross was just reward for a Marseille performance that would have yielded further goals were it not for some wayward finishing from the Ligue 1 outfit. SK Brann struggled to fashion any opportunities of note, but though it was not until the 68th minute that visiting goalkeeper Steve Mandanda was given cause for concern, Petter Vaagan Moen almost made OM rue their failure to cement their lead late on.
Ben Arfa role
Brann had been surprised by the decision of Marseille's Belgian coach Erik Gerets to field Ben Arfa – a summer signing from Olympique Lyonnais – on the right, a deployment which caused midfielder Erik Huseklepp to play largely on the defensive. And it was Ben Arfa who provided the assist for the only goal of the game just before the break, while Cheyrou, Ben Arfa and Mamadou Niang all missed chances to increase Marseille's advantage.
Brann's first chance came from a Birkir Sævarsson cross which Azar Karadas directed at Mandanda, and the striker headed over the crossbar four minutes from time as the hosts desperately sought something to take to France in two weeks' time. Gerets had introduced Djibril Cissé for the closing stages and the French striker nearly doubled the lead when his free-kick went narrowly wide after taking a deflection off Karadas. Another substitute, set-piece specialist Vaagan Moen, then caused Marseille hearts to skip a beat when his free-kick from just outside the penalty area in added time struck the bar and bounced over.