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Marseille survive Cup scare

Olympique Marseille survived a scare before knocking out amateurs Besancon on penalties in the French Cup on Sunday. Marseille struggled on a frozen pitch away to opponents playing in the fourth division. The last 64 game finished 1-1 after extra-time, with Marseille winning the penalty shoot-out 5-4. Midfielder Benoit Cheyrou scored the decisive penalty after an effort by Besancon striker Yohann Rangdet was blocked by Marseille keeper Steve Mandanda. The former European champions were 1-0 down with seven minutes left in normal time when Nigeria defender Taye Taiwo put them level from the penalty spot after Besancon defender Yannick Goyon handled the ball in the area. Marseille defender Ronald Zubar had put Besancon in front by putting the ball into his own net under pressure from Rangdet on 67 minutes. Besancon then resisted bravely under sustained pressure during extra-time and did not show signs of nerves until the very end of the shoot-out. Following Sunday’s draw for the round of 32, Lyon will entertain Marseille, providing the seven-times champions win their round of 64 tie against Concarneau, postponed twice because of a frozen pitch. Paris-Saint Germain needed a second-half goal from Stephane Sessegnon to beat fourth division Montlucon 1-0 earlier on Sunday.Monaco had earlier struggled to overcome fifth division Blagnac, needing an own goal from defender Frederic Marquet on 21 minutes to win 1-0.


‘Hulk’ helps Porto go top

Defending champions Porto replaced Benfica at the top of the Portuguese league on Sunday after winning 4-2 at Nacional courtesy of injury-time goals by Lucho Gonzalez and Givanildo “Hulk” Vieira. Benfica suffered their first league defeat of the season, falling 2-0 at lowly Trofense after goals from Nuno “Reguila” Silva and Helder Barbosa. Porto trailed in the 14th minute when midfielder Edson Sitta’s angled shot from outside the area was turned home by Porto defender Bruno Alves as he attempted to clear the ball. The champions of the past three years then struck back through the Hulk in the 51st minute and midfielder Cristian Rodriguez’s bicycle kick in the 72nd minute. Nacional substitute Miguel Fidalgo equalized with a 79th-minute header, only for Gonzalez to convert a last-gasp penalty and Hulk to then score with a solo effort. Benfica struggled to impose themselves on a Trofense side that began the game in last place. Reguila gave Trofense the lead on the stroke of halftime following a swift counterattack by the home team. Benfica’s problems worsened in the 64th minute when midfielder Augustin Binya was dismissed after picking up a second yellow card. Barbosa fired home 18 minutes later to seal Trofense’s win. Elsewhere, a forceful second-half display brought Maritimo a comfortable 4-1 win over visiting Pacos Ferreira and Amadora edged past Naval 1-0 courtesy of Anselmo’s 44th-minute headed goal.


Athens derby ends goalless

Panathinaikos’ hopes of significantly closing the gap on league leaders Olympiakos were dashed after a goalless draw with crosstown rivals AEK on Sunday. Playing before more than 60,000 fans at the Athens Olympic Stadium, Panathinaikos charged forward from the start. But it was AEK who came closest to taking the lead in the 31st minute when a header by Sotiris Kyrgiacos hit the post following a corner kick by Angelos Basinas. Also on Sunday it was Levadiakos 2, Aris 0 and Thrasivoulos 0, Larissa 0. The match between Panserraikos and Iraklis was postponed because of snow.

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