Olympique de Marseille spurned a major helping hand from FC Zürich as their UEFA Champions League adventure ended with a swift return to earth, Cristiano Ronaldo scoring twice as Group C winners Real Madrid CF left the Stade Vélodrome with a 3-1 victory.
Beating the nine-time winners is a daunting task at the best of times, but OM faced the prospect of needing to prevail 3-0 or by four clear goals if AC Milan took maximum plunder in Switzerland. As it happened, the Rossoneri could only draw 1-1, but that result was rendered meaningless by a pair of Ronaldo goals either side of Raúl Albiol's effort, with Lucho having earlier equalised before missing a penalty for the side now intent on UEFA Europa League success.
Madrid's last visit here had opened with a free-kick goal from David Beckham back in November 2003, and no sooner had the locals voiced their optimism than they were silenced by another former Red Devil, Ronaldo continuing the tradition of set-piece strikes from former Manchester United FC players with just five minutes gone. OM's feisty start to proceedings had been admirable, but it led to a foul 30 metres from goal and Ronaldo spun a delicious effort into the top corner via the glove of Steve Mandanda.
The stadium was soon humming again, though, as Didier Deschamps' men willed themselves level, Lucho lashing beyond Iker Casillas after Albiol had blocked Brandão's point-blank header from a Taye Taiwo cross. Brandão had by then collected a yellow card and a suspension, but the Brazilian striker's focus did not sway and he temporarily roused passions with an effort ruled out for offside as Marseille looked to pounce on some brief glimpses of disarray.
Not that all was serene at the other end – far from it, in fact, and four different players threatened to register in quick succession as a Rafael van der Vaart corner spread panic in the OM area. Ronaldo nodded against a post, Mandanda kept out Gonzalo Higuaín and finally both Pepe and Sergio Ramos had goalbound attempts blocked in extremis.
With Milan trailing at the interval, Marseille came out for the resumption in animated mood, only for their early fervour to be crushed once again. Mandanda had done well to deny both Van der Vaart and Marcelo, yet he was helpless to prevent Albiol firing low into the net after Gabriel Heinze had attempted to clear a corner – and this time there was to be no rapid equaliser.
A penalty for Lucho looked to be the perfect chance to restore parity following Casillas's foul on the onrushing Mamadou Niang, but the Argentinian international blasted against the crossbar. He was soon left ruing that miss all the more acutely as Ronaldo latched on to a Lassana Diarra pass, picked himself up from Mandanda's challenge on the edge of the area and turned the ball into an empty net to take his tally in this year's competition to six.