Marseille's Dimitri Payet shoots a free kick during the Europa Conference League quarterfinal soccer match between Olympique Marseille and PAOK FC at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, southern France, Thursday, April 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)
PARIS – Razvan Lucescu set his team up to play football, create chances and score goals. In the first half, the hosts had the upper hand and transformed their superiority into two goals.
The Double-headed Eagle made a more dynamic start to the second half, Omar El Kaddouri scored a great goal with one of his first touches of the ball after coming off the bench, and the final result means the two teams will resolve their differences in Thessaloniki in seven days.
The hosts opened the scoring in the 13th minute through Gerson. Payet threaded a nice ball thorugh and the Brazilian midfielder, who seemed to be in a marginally offside position, beat Paschalakis with a powerful shot.
Marseille garnered more confidence from that strike, and with their elevated psychology they tried to push forward more and extend their lead, but the PAOK defensive line worked well in nulifying the threat and preventing many clear opportunities from being created.
Paschalakis did have to intervene to save from Under in the 30th minute, but Payet had the last word in the first half. And what a word it was. The Frenchman scored with a goal-of-the-season contender from way outside the penalty area on the volley following a corner to make it 2-0 to the home side. This time there was nothing that Paschalakis – or any other goalkeeper for that matter – could do to stop it.
Lucescu introduced El Kaddouri in place of Tsingaras at half-time in order to try and make his team more of an attacking threat, and that decision was vindicated within just three minutes of the restart.
El Kaddouri exchanged passed with Andrija Zivkovic, with the latter teeing up his Moroccan teammate with a clever backheel pass. The ball sat perfectly for El Kaddouri and he swept a side-footed effort home past Madanda’s hapless dive, with the ball always arching away from the Marseille shot-stopper.
That made the scoreline 2-1, and PAOK increased the pressure on the hosts, leading the French side to make several mistakes. The visitors should have capitalised in the 58th minute but instead they missed out on a great opportunity to equalize. Douglas sent Akpom through on goal against Madanda, but the Englishman’s shot went just over the crossbar.
The hosts gradually began to regain possession from the 70th minute onwards and they created a few opportunities to try and restore their two-goal lead, but each time they came up against the excellent Paschalakis , who made solid saves from Under, Guendouzi, Payet and Gerson to keep the one-goal deficit intact. Marseille went on to finish the game with 10 players after the late dismissal of Gerson in the fifth minute of added time, while Kamara and Dieng will also both miss the second leg after picking up yellow cards. Marseille boss Jorge Sampaoli also received a yellow card.
The two teams will renew hostilities on next Thursday at the Toumba, in a game that will decide who qualifies for the semi-finals of the 2021-22 UEFA Europa Conference League.
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