Gabriel Heinze's second-half volley kick-started Olympique de Marsille's UEFA Champions League campaign at the third time of asking as the French side earned three vital points at FC Zürich to move back into Group C contention.
The visitors knew anything less than a win would leave them in a precarious position and produced a display of enterprise and endeavour. Yet they had to wait until 21 minutes from time to break the deadlock in a tight contest, with Zürich looking more determined to avoid a repeat of their opening 5-2 home defeat by Real Madrid CF than to build on their victory at AC Milan last time out. Marseille's success, along with Milan's triumph in Madrid, leaves the Spanish giants and their Serie A rivals on six points apiece, while Zürich and Marseille both have three.
Marseille went into the game chasing their first points after losses to Milan and Madrid, and had the ball in the net after just three minutes, though Hilton was adjudged offside after Johnny Leoni had parried Benoît Cheyrou's shot. Undeterred, the Mediterranean team continued to press and Cheyrou fizzed another long-range effort over, while Lucho and Brandão probed as the visitors sought a way through the Zürich defence.
There was no shortage of neat short passing or running off the ball, but both sides struggled to find that decisive final pass or to elude particularly effective offside traps. Zürich midfielder Milan Gajić tried to inject menace with a low drive from the edge of the area but two clearer chances fell to the Ligue 1 club in quick succession just before the break. Hilton rose highest to meet Mathieu Valbuena's left-wing cross but could only direct his header over. Next, Leoni conjured a superb reflex stop when Brandão complemented Mamadou Niang's inviting low centre with a flicked shot from close range.
Zürich made a brighter start to the second half, demanding of Steve Mandanda his first real save of the match as he tipped over a wickedly swerving shot from Johan Vonlanthen. However, Marseille quickly recovered their poise and attacking momentum. Their midfielders were constantly looking to release Brandão as they pushed on and there was an opening for Valbuena who hooked a hopeful effort centimetres too high.
If Marseille were beginning to wonder whether they would ever get tangible reward for their efforts, the question was answered emphatically by Heinze. A quick free-kick gave Lucho space to swing over a cross from the right and the Argentina defender, completely unmarked at the far post, coolly volleyed past Leoni and into the far corner. To their credit, the Swiss champions responded immediately and Mandanda had to react sharply to turn Gajić's bouncing free-kick round the post. Zürich duly threw everything at the Marseille goal in the closing stages and might have levelled when Alain Rochat was allowed a free header at the very end. His effort flew too high, however, and Didier Deschamps' men held on for a crucial win ahead of the reverse fixture at the Stade Vélodrome on 3 November.