Timo Werner’s goal in first half stoppage time gave RB Leipzig a narrow advantage in their UEFA Europa League quarter-final with Olympique Marseille.
Marseille had the better chances in the first half but they were caught on the counter as Werner struck past Yohann Pelé.
The French side had the greater experience but offered little in response in the second half, allowing Leipzig to keep a clean sheet in Europe for the first time. There is all still to play for though in the second leg next week.
Marseille come close before late Werner blow
In contrary to much of the season so far, Ralph Hasenhüttl opted for little rotation to the side that beat Hannover 96 at the weekend. Willi Orban was suspended whilst Bernardo also made way, with Dayot Upamecano and Lukas Klostermann coming in. Marseille had been hit with a triple injury blow, with Steve Mandanda, Rolando and Adil Rami all joining Florian Thauvin on the injury list. With Valère Germain also dropping out, Pelé, Hiroki Sakai, Jordan Amavi and Konstantinos Mitroglou were added to the team that beat FCO Dijon in Ligue 1 last Saturday.
It was clear early on that it was going to be an open game, and Leipzig thought they should have had a penalty when Bruma went down in the box, going down under the challenge of former Hannover defender Sakai – the referee correctly realised he had got the ball though. Moments after Marseille could have been ahead, as Mitroglou connected with Dimitri Payet’s ball into the box, however Peter Gulácsi kept it out.
Leipzig struggled to force Pelé into action for much of the half. An attempt from Naby Keïta was blocked by Sakai, whilst a cross from Emil Forsberg just after was headed over by Ibrahima Konaté. A counter led by Werner then broke down as he failed to find Bruma, whilst a number of set pieces for Leipzig also came to little. Marseille were ultimately having the better chances, with Bouna Sarr hitting a volley into the ground and off the bar as half-time was approaching.
There was late drama before the break though. After Jean-Kévin Augustin was denied a penalty for Leipzig, Marseille went down the other end and Gulácsi had to make saves from both Sarr and Lucas Ocampos. His side then counter-countered, with Werner cutting in from the right, taking aim and shooting through the legs of Pelé to put Leipzig ahead.
Lively start to second half but action peters out
Leipzig looked buoyed coming into the second half, with Pelé making two important saves, one to intercept Werner’s cross to Augustin and another from Werner himself, who was unable to beat the 35-year-old from a tight angle.
Marseille responded in kind though, as Ocampos was blocked out by Konaté before striking off target as Leizpig failed to clear the resulting corner. Payet then showed a touch of class with a good strike on goal, but he wasn’t able to keep it down.
A 20-minute quiet spell followed, with Marseille unable to take advantage after Bernardo could not come on to replace an injured Konrad Laimer. The game back to life when a ball from Forsberg, who had provided the assist for the first, allowed Werner to break clear again, and it looked like he would be one-on-one with Pelé, however the veteran Luiz Gustavo got back to block to keep his side in the game.
Marseille left it late to make changes, with Germain and Maxime López coming on for the largely-ineffectual duo of Mitroglou and Payet. There wasn’t much urgency on the pitch from Rudi Garcia’s side, with the best effort they could muster in the closing stages being a clumsy overhead kick from Ocampos, which went over the bar. Presumably there are backing themselves to turn the tie around at the Orange Vélodrome next Thursday night. After keeping their first ever clean sheet in Europe, Leipzig will be happy with their night’s work.