Marseille (France), April 27 (IANS) Olympique Marseille took a big step toward a third Europa League final berth by defeating Red Bull Salzburg 2-0 here at the Velodrome Stadium, with Florian Thauvin and Clinton N’Jie doing the scoring.
The Ligue 1 club had been unable to get on the scoreboard in two group-stage matches against the Austrian team during this season’s edition of Europe’s secondary club competition. But Dominique Payet finally was able to break down Salzburg’s defence with a perfectly placed pass on a free kick in the 16th minute on Thursday night, reports EFE news agency.
The ball soared out of the reach of goalkeeper Alexander Walke and all the way to Thauvin, who came up behind defender Andreas Ulmer and headed the ball into the back of the net.
The deficit prompted Salzburg head coach Marco Rose to adopt a more attacking strategy, and it nearly paid off when Stefan Lainer clamored for a penalty on a challenge by Maxime Lopez in the 53rd minute.
Just moments later, Marseille net minder Yohann Pele had to make a diving save of a shot by Hannes Wolf from the penalty arc.
But Payet made his presence felt a second time in the 64th minute when he made a simple but effective pass to Clinton N’Jie, who dribbled forward a couple of steps and then slotted a shot just inside the right upright to make the score 2-0.
The goal came just four minutes after N’Jie had been sent on as a replacement for Lopez.
Salzburg had good chances to cut the lead in half but Fredrik Gulbrandsen ricocheted a strike off the woodwork after a give-and-go with Ulmer in the 74th minute.
Pele later was forced to come up with two more saves and Salzburg also pleaded for a penalty in second-half injury time, but the visitors were unable to record an away goal.
Marseille, which was runner-up in this competition in 1999 and 2004, and Salzburg (runner-up in 1994) will play the second leg of their Europa League semi-final on May 3 at Red Bull Arena in Wals-Siezenheim, Austria.
The winner will take on either Premier League club Arsenal or La Liga side Atletico Madrid in the May 16 final at Parc Olympique Lyonnais in Decines-Charpieu, France.
The other semi-final is tied 1-1 after the first leg.