marseille squeeze past battling brann published: thursday 28 august 2008, 0.25cet olympique de marseille 2-1 sk brann (agg: 3-1) an inspired mamadou niang ensured om moved past brann into a second straight group stage campaign.
by christian châtelet
an inspired display by mamadou niang ensured that olympique de marseille moved past sk brann and for the first time will compete in a second successive uefa champions league group stage campaign.
niang double having won 1-0 in norway a fortnight ago, marseille were in pole position but brann took the game to the 1993 european champions – even after niang made their task more difficult with a 65th-minute goal. kristján sigurdsson gave brann hope but in added time niang removed any doubt to secure marseille's fifth group stage appearance.
brann threat brann are ninth in the tippeligaen yet belied that position early on as they attempted to turn around this third qualifying round tie. after six minutes, erik huseklepp broke free down the right and cut in but his angled drive was palmed away by steve mandanda. marseille responded and right-back taye taiwo smashed a volley on to the post. brann were on top yet such was the ebb and flow of the contest that goalkeeper håkon opdal was forced to dive to stop karim ziani's shot.
marseille relief marseille picked up the pace after the interval with new signing hatem ben arfa lively on the left, crossing for captain lorik cana to head straight at opdal. both ziani and elliot grandin came close, before the deadlock was finally broken when niang stole beyond sigurdsson, ólafur örn bjarnason and opdal to collect a loose ball which he rolled into an empty net.
late clincher two goals were now needed for brann and they got one nine minutes later as jan gunnar solli's free-kick was headed in powerfully by sigurdsson. suddenly there were nerves for marseille but their place in thursday's draw was safe when niang pounced on a poor defensive back-header to opdal to settle matters. brann go into the uefa cup first round and will attempt to repeat last season's run to the group stage.