Olympique de Marseille advanced to the semi-final of the UEFA Europa Conference League (UECL), reaching their first UEFA competition semi-final since the 2017/18 campaign, following a 3-1 aggregate victory against PAOK FC.
The 1973/74 European Cup Winners’ Cup quarter finalists had their work cut out, as they trailed 2-1 following a fiery first-leg clash last week in France. Having registered back-to-back defeats in all competitions, PAOK required a productive start to the encounter, and started on the front foot, recording eight menacing attacks in the opening six minutes. In that early passage, Steve Mandanda emphatically denied Chuba Akpom and José Crespo from close range, as Marseille sought to weather the storm.
Dimitri Payet, who took his tally to five goal contributions across four UECL matches with the first-leg winner against PAOK, initially struggled to find his feet. He blazed a 13th-minute strike over the bar, before failing to find a team mate from a dangerous set piece midway through the half. As is his way though, the Frenchman persevered and got his reward in the 34th minute, blasting the ball into the bottom right-hand corner of the net, following an exceptional pinpoint pass from Matteo Guendouzi.
With the ‘Olympians’ appropriately giving PAOK an Olympus-sized mountain to climb in the second half, Cédric Bakambu tried his luck after the interval with a thunderbolt from the edge of the area, but his effort zipped past the post and out of play. Pape Gueye was next up to try and add more salt to the home side’s wounds, but his point-blank range hit was superbly rebuffed by Alexandros Paschalakis.
Despite staring at an exit from the competition in the face, the ‘White-Blacks’ continued to battle on, and Andrija Živković found himself in a glorious position to salvage a goal back, but Mandanda was once again on hand to tip the ball away to deny the Serbian international. Jorge Sampaoli’s team rode out the final stages of the contest to record an impressive eight wins on the bounce in all competitions, and now face Feyenoord in a mouth-watering semi-final.