With a 2-1 win over Norway’s Brann Bergen, France’s Olympique de Marseille reached Champions League group stage. Meanwhile, Spain’s Atletico Madrid and Arsenal qualified by crushing their respective opponents 4-0.
French first division front-runners Marseille muddled into the Champions League proper here on Wednesday after an unconvincing 2-1 home win against Brann to go through 3-1 on aggregate.
The Velodrome stadium observed a minute's silence for the two fans killed in a car accident before last weekend's match against Le Havre, and when play started it was the Norwegians who looked the snappier.
Brann got an early shot on goal after a run by Erik Huseklepp exposed some sloppy defending, cutting in from the right to fire a pacey shot against Steve Mandanda.
Marseille were slow to respond to the visitors' attempts to cancel out the one-goal deficit from the first leg, but in the 13th minute Eric Gerets' men finally snapped awake.
A teasing cross from Karim Tiano found Tayo Taiwo on the left, who unleashed a blistering drive which thundered off a relieved Akon Opdal's post.
Marseille's Hatem Ben Arfa showed his class in the first quarter with probing runs and neat interchanges, as the 1993 European champions turned the screw.
The home side monopolised possession but couldn't make it count as the first half ebbed away, the scoring touch which has netted them nine goals in their first three league games seemingly AWOL.
Ben Arfa bolted out of the traps at the start of the second period teeing up captain Lorik Cana who shot straight at the keeper.
Three minutes later Tiano pounced on a poor clearance to curl a shot round the post, as the home side again reasserted dominance, sweeping the ball about without much urgency or invention.
The gulf in quality between the two sides was illustrated in the 66th minute as Marseille broke the deadlock on the night.
A schoolboy error of farcical proportions between keeper Opdal and his two central defenders allowed Mamadou Niang to walk the ball into the net and give the home side a 2-0 aggregate lead.
Brann did not look like they had much to offer, but Marseille's complacency proved to be the visitors' biggest asset when defender Kristjan Bjorn Sigurdsson equalised in the 74th minute to atone for his earlier blunder.
That led to a nervy 10-minute spell for the home side, but Niang was on hand again to slot home a calmative second goal in the 91st minute to put Marseille into Thursday's draw for the Champions League group stages.
Date created : 2008-08-27