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OM keep Eagles grounded

SL Benfica 1-1 Olympique de Marseille
Hatem Ben Arfa's late header swung the momentum of the round of 16 tie in the French visitors' favour after Maxi Pereira had struck for Benfica.

OM keep Eagles grounded
OM keep Eagles grounded ©UEFA.com

Olympique de Marseille salvaged a 1-1 draw with Hatem Ben Arfa's last-minute header to deny SL Benfica a hard-won UEFA Europa League round of 16 advantage.

Benfica were rarely allowed to hit their recent heights on home turf, but they looked set to take a lead to the Stade Vélodrome next Thursday thanks to Maxi Pereira's scrambled strike 14 minutes from time. The momentum of the contest shifted dramatically at the death, however, as Ben Arfa nodded in from Laurent Bonnart's cross.

Marseille refused to let their opponents establish their habitual rhythm and, far from being conservative, they enjoyed the better early chances. Former FC Porto favourite Lucho González scuffed wide following a Laurent Bonnart cross and Brandão was off target after being released by Lucho.

The home side were struggling to pick out Óscar Cardozo until Di María finally combined with his colleague on 33 minutes, floating a ball over the defence that Cardozo volleyed into the stands. Benfica were beginning to find solutions and Pablo Aimar nearly beat Steve Mandanda to round off their first flowing move.

Chances from Cardozo and Di María underlined the home side's growing dominance, yet far from subdued OM supplied the last chance of the half, Lucho just failing to find the far corner from Brandão's centre. Didier Deschamps' men began the second period brightly too, with Benoît Cheyrou testing Júlio César.

The Brazilian goalkeeper then displayed excellent reflexes to keep out Mamadou Niang's bullet header at the second attempt, and soon after it was his opposite number who was beaten. Cardozo flicked on a deflected low Di María centre and after Mandanda spilled the ball, Maxi Pereira was able to poke in. Mandanda redeemed himself somewhat by turning a Ramires effort on to the bar, allowing Ben Arfa's goal to equalise.