An early goal made all the difference for Olympique de Marseille in the record 7-0 away win over MŠK Žilina which set them up for a tussle with FC Spartak Moskva for second spot in Group F.
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André-Pierre Gignac's hat-trick led Olympique de Marseille to a record-setting 7-0 away victory over MŠK Žilina and back into the frame for qualification from UEFA Champions League Group F.
Dider Deschamps' team knew they had to win in Slovakia to keep their qualifying hopes alive after opening defeats by FC Spartak Moskva and Chelsea FC but few expected the scale of their success. A fortnight earlier at Stade Vélodrome, Marseille had laboured to a 1-0 victory over the same opposition.
The 24-year-old Gignac, who scored twice within the first 21 minutes and added a third in the second half, explained the difference between the two games. "We scored early tonight, that was the key. Things are easier if you score in the 12th and 21st minutes."
Marseille playmaker Mathieu Valbuena lauded his French international team-mate. "Gignac badly wanted to score and look what happened. Good for him and good for us. It's rare that a team wins by seven goals in the Champions League, so it gives us great confidence. We are also happy with how we won, playing attacking football from the off. We played with simplicity and lots of movement."
OM's goal haul in Slovakia is the biggest away win in UEFA Champions League history. For Gignac, however, only the next two matchdays matter. "The three points were important as we knew it would set up a decider against Spartak if they lost against Chelsea."
By beating Žilina home and away, the Ligue 1 titleholders have resurrected their campaign, moving up alongside second-placed Spartak on six points. Marseille's poor start, though, still leaves them with much to do – beginning in Moscow in three weeks' time. "Now we have to beat Spartak to qualify," admitted Valbuena, 26.
After an encouraging display in France on 19 October, Žilina had been eyeing third place in the group and a possible UEFA Europa League spot. But as happened in their home game against Chelsea, Pavel Hapal's men soon found themselves four goals behind.
"Against Chelsea we played open football and tried to attack even when four goals down," Žilina goalkeeper Martin Dúbravka said. "Our fans loved it that we didn't lie down. We tried the same tactic tonight but it didn't work. To let in seven goals was a very unpleasant experience."
Defender Vladimír Leitner said Marseille had given Žilina a "slap in the face", adding that his side had become "totally lost" by the final whistle. "When you are down 3-0 after 25 minutes, you have little chance of getting back into it. We were much slower than them and they punished all our mistakes. We lost the ball too easily and when you don't have the ball you can't compete with such opponents."