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By Matthew Spiro at the Stade Vélodrome
Olympique de Marseille became the second French club to qualify for a European final in 24 hours when they beat Newcastle United FC 2-0 in the second leg of their UEFA Cup semi-final.
Drogba the hero
Two goals from Didier Drogba, who has scored in all four rounds of the competition his team have played in, were enough to see off a battling but below-par Newcastle and take Marseille to the final in Gothenburg on 19 May.
Marseille made one change to the side that drew 0-0 at St James' Park, with the fit-again Steve Marlet replacing Laurent Batlles. He was handed an attacking role on the right of midfield, with Camel Meriem on the left and Drogba up front. Newcastle manager Sir Bobby Robson, bereft of key men Jonathan Woodgate, Kieron Dyer, Jermaine Jenas and Craig Bellamy, chose not to rush Lee Bowyer back after injury, instead opting for Hugo Viana in central midfield.
Marseille carved out the first glimmer of an opening on eight minutes when Manuel Dos Santos exchanged passes with Meriem but the wing-back scuffed his shot straight at Shay Given. The Newcastle goalkeeper was called into action again seven minutes later when Drogba's free-kick found its way through the defensive wall but again Given made a routine save.
It was merely a warning of what was to come from Drogba who opened the scoring in the 18th minute. Newcastle had committed men forward for Laurent Robert's free-kick but when the move broke down, Meriem was free to race over halfway and release Drogba clear on the right. The Ivory Coast striker showed great composure, cleverly cutting inside Aaron Hughes, taking an extra touch to shake off the defender then dispatching a low shot past Given.
The home fans came to life and Marseille threatened to score a second moments later, this time Marlet breaking the offside trap before rounding Given and seeing his effort from an acute angle deflected wide. Matthieu Flamini and Sylvain N'Diaye were winning the midfield battle, but Habib Beye had to be on his toes to block Alan Shearer's volley in the 27th minute.
Marseille finished the half on top, however, with the effervescent Drogba causing major problems with his intelligent running. Full of confidence, the forward tried his luck from long range in the 43rd minute but his strike bounced up kindly into Given's arms.
Newcastle came out with renewed vigour after the break. They created their first clear chance of the night in the 52nd minute when Shola Ameobi received a throw-in and cleverly turned past Beye before unleashing a right-foot drive over the bar. The home team seemed content to sit back, but they nearly paid the price when Shearer found space on the edge of the box and rifled a low shot straight at Fabien Barthez.
The game became stretched as Marseille launched a series of dangerous counterattacks, and Marlet went close to scoring a spectacular goal with a volley from 20 metres that just missed the top corner after an hour.
The alarm bells were ringing at the other end in the 73rd minute when Barthez misjudged a cross from the left and Ameobi headed goalwards. The Marseille goalkeeper recovered well, though, clawing the ball to safety. Substitute Bowyer squandered a glorious opportunity four minutes later, hooking wide from close range. It was to prove a costly miss as, eight minutes from time, Marseille sealed their impressive victory as Drogba lashed in his second goal from Batlles's cleverly-taken free-kick.
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