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Marseille hold on to earn UEFA Cup berth

Olympique de Marseille 0-0 Club Atlético de Madrid
OM will take their place in the UEFA Cup next year after securing a draw against the Spanish side, who had to settle for second spot in Group D.

Éver Banega runs into a wall of Marseille defenders
Éver Banega runs into a wall of Marseille defenders ©Getty Images

Olympique de Marseille will take their place in the UEFA Cup Round of 32 next year after securing a goalless draw with Club Atlético de Madrid, a result that suited the visitors far less as they were forced to accept second spot in Group D.

Conviction lacking
With Liverpool FC winning 3-1 at PSV Eindhoven, Atlético needed a victory of their own to finish first in the section, but lacked conviction in the first 45 minutes and soon fell silent again in the second. The hosts appeared hungry throughout, yet failed to seriously threaten the visitors and will be feeling grateful to Liverpool for extinguishing PSV's hopes of finishing third.

Agüero explosive
Atlético coach Javier Aguirre made eight changes to the side that swept Real Sporting de Gijón aside at the weekend, but it was club mainstay Sergio Agüero who made the first incursion, catching Vitorino Hilton in possession on seven minutes before bursting forward and hooking his cross-shot across the face of goal. Ronald Zubar headed narrowly wide from a corner at the other end as Marseille slowly began pressing their claims, and with their opponents content to sit back the home side twice had chances to make their creeping inroads count, only for Mamadou Samassa to lack composure on both occasions.

Samassa injury
The 22-year-old was making his first UEFA Champions League start as a replacement for the absent Mamadou Niang, but with just 29 minutes gone he himself succumbed to injury, making way for Mathieu Valbuena. OM coach Erik Gerets will not have appreciated having his plans disrupted so early on, and his charges' failure to retain possession cannot have gone down too well either. It took another Zubar header to involve either goalkeeper, Frenchman Grégory Coupet easily handling the centre-back's glanced effort after 39 minutes.

Atlético improvement
Although neither side had managed to threaten significantly in the opening period, the one major positive for the two teams was that both remained on course to meet their objectives at the halfway stage, with PSV and Liverpool tied at 1-1 at the interval. Not content to leave anything to chance, however, Gerets's men had an extra zip about them after the restart, while Los Colchoneros pressed noticeably higher up the pitch. They also sent on Diego Forlán as a 55th-minute substitute, though it was Agüero who made way.

Ben Arfa shot
If the Atlético No10 had failed to build on his promising start, Marseille dangerman Hatem Ben Arfa was also struggling to influence proceedings, despite some excellent touches and obvious attacking intent. The Mediterranean outfit instead threatened most from a series of corners, Hilton having one promising effort blocked, and when the ball finally did fall to Ben Arfa in front of goal, the French international gave Coupet too much of a chance with his low drive. The former Olympique Lyonnais No1 then turned a Karim Ziani free-kick wide. Taye Taiwo was next to try his luck, with Coupet again alert, so it was left to Liverpool to ease the locals' nerves in the final moments.