Marseille 5 – 2 RB Leipzig: OM’s stunning comeback earns Europa League semifinal berth
Olympique Marseille's Europa League semifinal road appeared rocky. The French side were coming off two straight defeats and entered the second leg having dropped the first 0-1 on German soil. RB Leipzig broke the deadlock with a goal in the second minute at the Velodrome. Down 2-0 on aggregate and having surrendered an away goal, Marseille needed to score at least three to advance. They delivered.
An own goal from Stefan Ilsanker and strikes from Bouna Sarr, Florian Thauvin, Dimitri Payet and Hiroki Sakai lifted the Ligue 1 side towards what at one point seemed a very unlikely Europa League semifinal place. Bruma and Jean Augustin netted for the German side, but it wasn’t enough. Marseille celebrated yet another huge comeback in a week filled with them.
The match began with incredible intensity. Bruma opened the scoring for Leipzig. He came out of nowhere to place a right-footed effort past Yohann Pele in the second minute, proving yet again it's not right for a netminder to bear the Brazilian legend's name. Marseille did not waste time turning things around. Ilsanker knew little about the deflection that found him then his goal. Then Bouna Sarr put the hosts in front when he pounced on a rebound after Morgan Sanson was denied twice by Peter Gulacsi. That should catch you up on the first ten minutes. Now about the rest...
Marseille still needed one goal to grab the lead on aggregate score. They found it before the break. Thauvin, a pre-match injury doubt, rose to the occasion. He deflected a cross from Payet straight past Gulacsi. At the whistle, Marseille had a 3-1 lead and a 3-2 advantage in the tie. Had the game ended like that, Marseille would have clinched their semifinal berth but there was more to come.
If you've ever visited Marseille, you know nothing is easy there other than finding trouble. Leipzig recovered the advantage on the aggregate score only 10 minutes after the break. Augustin found the back of the net with a well-placed finesse shot after a delightful backheel assist from Naby Keita. The Guinean played his final European match for Leipzig. Next season he may be taking the pitch for the Champions League holders if Liverpool can negotiate three more matches.
Trouble doesn't bother Rudi Garcia's crew, though. Marseille only needed five minutes to react. They did with one of the best goals in the entire Europa League season.
Dmitri Payet once again appeared when the team needed him most. The French international left a defender behind with an impressive stepover, then drilled a left-footed volley into the upper corner. Gulacsi, golazo. Golazo, Gulacsi. The Hungarian hadn't a chance. Marseille once again grabbed the advantage on the aggregate score. This time, they wouldn't let go.
Credit to Leipzig, they tried. Bruma, Augustin, Keita, and second-half substitutes Bernardo, Emil Forsberg and Yussuf Poulsen all sought to create chances, but Marseille’s defensive line was stout down the stretch. The final minutes saw Leipzig go all-out on attack. At one point even Gulacsi went up for a corner kick. He would regret it. A ball into the penalty box was cleared away by Marseille’s defence. Hiroki Sakai took advantage of the empty goal. It was 5-2, game over, tie to Marseille.
In what has been dubbed as the “comeback week” across Europe, Marseille emulated AS Roma and RB Salzburg. They won the aggregate score despite losing the first leg. The Phocians are just three wins from claiming their first UEFA Europa League title.
If today’s game taught us anything, it's that Marseille can take on anyone in the world.
Marseille: Pele; Sakai, Kamara, Luiz Gustavo, Amavi; Lopez, Sanson; Sarr (Rami, 28’), Thauvin (Ocampos, 63’), Payet (Anguissa, 83’); Mitroglou
RB Leipzig: Gulacsi; Ilsanker, Konate, Upamecano (Bernardo, 66’), Klostermann; Kampl, Demme (Forsberg, 54’), Keita, Bruma; Augustin, Sabitzer (Poulsen, 59’)
Goals: (MAR) Ilsanker (OG, 6’), Sarr (9’), Thauvin (38’), Payet (60’), Sakai (90+4’); (RBL) Bruma (2’), Augustin (55’)
Referee: Björn Kuipers (NED)
Yellow Cards: (MAR) Thauvin, Mitrglou, Sakai; (RBL) Konate
Red Cards: None