A cruel own goal by Cesar Azpilicueta saw French champions Marseille slump to a 1-0 defeat at home to Spartak Moscow in their Champions League Group F opener on Wednesday.
Marseille, the only French side ever to win Europe’s top cup competition, created almost all the game’s best chances but saw Lucho Gonzalez waste their clearest opportunity when he headed wide of an unguarded goal.
The Russians took swift advantage, with Dmitri Kombarov’s low left-wing cross flicking off Azpilicueta and squirming between Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda’s legs in the 81st minute.
Andre-Pierre Gignac made his Champions League debut as a second-half substitute and he almost rescued a last-gasp equaliser with a right-footed strike that hit the inside of the left-hand post in injury time.
Marseille controlled possession in the first half, but had only a couple of long-range efforts from Benoit Cheyrou to show for their territorial dominance when Spartak began to assert themselves.
Alex shot over after Marseille midfielder Edouard Cisse was dispossessed in midfield, while Welliton, the current top scorer in the Russian Premier League, narrowly failed to connect with an Alex free-kick.
The hosts rallied again before the break and visiting goalkeeper Andriy Dykan had to push away an acrobatic scissor-kick by Cheyrou in first-half injury time.
Didier Deschamps’s side stepped up their onslaught after the break, with Brandao shooting narrowly wide from 25 yards and testing Dykan with a header before the Spartak shot-stopper had to tip away a fierce Taye Taiwo drive.
Valbuena’s shot on the turn drew another good save from Dykan with 15 minutes remaining.
Moments later Lucho spurned Marseille’s best chance of the night when he directed Valbuena’s inch-perfect cross wide with the goal gaping.
Azpilicueta’s unfortunate intervention silenced Stade Velodrome soon after, and allowed Spartak to strike a potentially crucial blow in their bid to join likely group winners Chelsea in reaching the knockout phase.
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