Bolton Wanderers FC stretched their unbeaten home run to 18 games at the Reebok stadium but it is Olympique de Marseille that will go away the happier after hold their opponents to a valuable goalless draw in the UEFA Cup Round of 32 tie.
Bolton defender Bruno N'Gotty lined up against his former employers, but he saw little action in the opening stages as the visitors made a cautious start. The Premiership outfit soon set about capitalising on that hesitancy and were soon peppering Fabien Barthez's penalty area with cross-field crosses. The ploy almost produced dividends after seven minutes when the ball fell kindly for Jay-Jay Okocha, whose powerful strike forced Barthez to tip over.
Niang near miss
However, with Hidetoshi Nakata suspended and El Hadji Diouf injured, Sam Allaryce's team lacked attacking guile and Marseille gradually gained a foothold. Mamadou Niang fizzed two blistering long-range shots over the bar before the interval but it was after the restart that the Ligue 1 team burst into life. Three minutes into the seocnd half, tentative defending by N'Gotty allowed Wilson Oruma space to shoot just wide, and the French defender was again culpable moments later as Niang was presented with the chance of the match.
The Senegalese striker pounced upon a lacklustre pass and after striding into the box, he opted to attempt to round the advancing Jussi Jääskeläinen but the Bolton goalkeeper extended an arm to deny him. Allardyce introduced Ricardo Vaz Té with 23 minutes remaining to see if he could find a way through the French team's industrious five-man back line and the Portuguese striker almost made an immediate impression, forcing Barthez into a reaction save.
Stylianos Giannakopoulos missed a gilt-edged chance late on as he headed into the side-netting from an angle with only Barthez to beat and Marseille will go into the second leg at the Stade Vélodrome with the knowledge that Bolton have never won away from home in Europe.