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Europe dips below horizon for Marseille
Published : 09 Mar 2012 21:46:52
Marseille's hopes of participation in next season's Champions League suffered a crushing blow following a fourth consecutive league defeat, 1-0 away to Ajaccio, on Friday.
Didier Deschamps took his misfiring side, which has taken zero points from their last three league outings, to Corsica hoping to kickstart a final charge towards the top places in the French league.
Injured duo Mathieu Valbuena and Loic Remy, who were missing from the squad for the defeat to Evian, returned to the fray.
But at the end of a desperate match in which both sides mostly failed to convert the few chances they had created, Ajaccio snatched the win when Benjamin Andre left Marseille 'keeper Steve Mandanda flailing at thin air in the 88th minute.
Marseille started this game eight points outside the Champions League places in eighth place with 12 games of the season remaining and now risk dropping to ninth if Bordeaux overcome Brest in Brittany on Saturday.
Ajaccio's seventh win of the season lifted the Corsicans up five places to 13th ahead of the rest of the weekend fixtures.
All eyes, however, will be on Marseille.
Despite facing Inter Milan in the second leg of their Champions League last 16 tie next week, where they defend a 1-0 lead, their chances of appearing at Europe's top table after next summer look slim.
Marseille started the match in positive fashion, dominating play and giving Ajaccio few glimpses of the ball in the opening half.
Despite the urgency for a win, however, their best chance of a match in which they did not hit a shot on target until the 42nd minute did not come until six minutes from regulation time.
Unfortunately for the visitors, Marseille's Mexican keeper Guillermo Ochoa pulled off a superb reflex save to keep out Jordan Ayew's goal-bound effort following a superb centre from Brandao.
Moments later Andre latched onto Johann Cavalli's probing pass to beat Mandanda with a first-time shot which, come May, could count as one of the most significant goals the team has scored this season.