Argentine midfielder Lucho Gonzalez’s second half goal lifted Marseille to a morale-boosting 1-0 Champions League win over Olympiakos on Tuesday to give the French champions a surprise early lead in Group F.
Marseille, France’s sole European Cup winners, turned up in Athens looking to revive their fortunes after a dispiriting start to the defence of their French league crown.
Didier Deschamps’ side are winless after five games, harvesting a meagre three points to leave them languishing two off the foot of the table.
And they regarded Tuesday’s Greek run out as the ideal opportunity to belatedly kick start their season against opposition that had lost their last three home ties against French teams.
Olympiakos too went into the tie at their Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium handicapped by not having kicked a ball in anger since April.
The first half was a feisty free moving affair, and Marseille could count themselves unlucky not to return to their dressing room at the break in the lead.
They came out of the blocks fighting, with the first, squandered, chance falling to Souleymane Diawara in only the second minute when he failed to control a header.
Marseille’s Benoit Cheyrou proved problematic for the Olympiakos backline, the first of his numerous attempts on Franco Costanzo’s goal coming with an early long range effort.
He turned provider on 24 minutes but Morgan Amalfitano was unable to capitalise.
On 35 minutes Cheyrou’s header went fractionally over, as Olympiakos lived dangerously.
Seconds later Costanzo was beaten by Loic Remy’s shot only for the ball to ricochet off the near post.
It was by no means all one way traffic in favour of the French with their Greek hosts and in particular their on loan from Saint Etienne Belgian striker Kevin Mirallas keeping Steve Mandanda on his toes from time to time.
Marseille got the goal they deserved six minutes after the restart when Jeremy Morel set up Lucho with a cross from the left side.
The Argentine midfielder, finding the finishing touch which had deserted his teammates in the first half, knocked the ball in through a narrow gap between Costanzo and the post.
On the hour, Mirallas picked up the first booking with Portuguese referee Pedro Proenca meting out the same treatment to Morel, the architect of Marseille’s goal, ten minutes later.
Proenca plucked out a red card in the first minute of injury time, the recipient Rod Fanni, the Marseille right back guilty of an ill judged late tackle on Mirallas.
Despite that late hiccup Marseille, appearing in their fifth successive Champions League campaign, held on to put them atop Group F after favourites Arsenal were held 1-1 at Borussia Dortmund.
The game had been preceded by scuffles between a group of Marseille fans and local police in the Greek capital.