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Spartak sucker punch downs Marseille

Olympique de Marseille 0-1 FC Spartak Moskva
The Russian team celebrated their return to the UEFA Champions League in memorable fashion with a late victory in Group F.

Spartak sucker punch downs Marseille
Spartak sucker punch downs Marseille ©UEFA.com

FC Spartak Moskva celebrated their return to the UEFA Champions League in style by earning a victory away to Olympique de Marseille in Group F.

Back after a four-year absence, the Russian club needed to soak up considerable pressure but they defended stoutly and claimed their first win on French soil at the 11th attempt after OM defender César Azpilicueta put through his own net in the 81st minute. Didier Deschamps' team piled on the pressure in the second half, yet a combination of poor finishing, fine goalkeeping from Andriy Dykan and bad luck – notably when André-Pierre Gignac hit the post in added time – meant they finished empty-handed.

Marseille had lost their opening fixture at home in the last two campaigns, and the Ligue 1 outfit struggled again here. Aside from two long-range efforts by Benoît Cheyrou, both saved by Dykan, they failed to provide any genuine threat in the first 45 minutes. The visitors were intelligent in defence, denying Marseille's creators Mathieu Valbuena and Lucho González space, and choosing their moments to counterattack.

The tactic almost paid off midway through the opening period when Dmitri Kombarov stole possession off Edouard Cissé, allowing Ibson to release Alex on the left of the box. The Spartak skipper struck a crisp left-footed shot that looked to have beaten Steve Mandanda, only to fly narrowly over. Alarm bells rang again in the home rearguard moments later as Welliton arrived unopposed at the near post yet just failed to get a contact on Alex's low free-kick from the left.

Cheyrou's scissor-kick on the stroke of the interval forced a scrambling stop from Dykan and hinted that a Marseille response might be imminent. Straight from the restart, Brandão surged forward and rifled a low effort past the upright from 25 metres. The home fans roared their approval and suddenly Valeri Karpin's men were on the back foot. Dykan, though, was in inspired mood, frustrating Taye Taiwo with a wonderful fingertip save on 67 minutes, then showing fine reflexes to keep out Valbuena.

Lucho should have scored seconds later, the Argentinian nodding wide of the far post with the goal gaping. Spartak duly punished Marseille's profligacy, Alex releasing Kombarov on the left and the unfortunate Azpilicueta deflecting the ensuing cross past Mandanda. The Mediterranean side continued to push but when a fierce strike by substitute Gignac rattled the inside of the post and stayed out, the game was up. Marseille will attempt to bounce back at Chelsea FC on 28 September when Spartak entertain MŠK Žilina.