Fri, Feb 24, 2012 - Page 18 News List

Underdogs shock former champions

WHAT A NIGHT:Both Wednesday’s last-16, first-leg matches delivered surprises: Olympique de Marseille beat Inter, while Basel took care of Bayern Munich


Olympique de Marseille’s Andre Ayew, right, celebrates after scoring against Inter’s goalkeeper Julio Cesar in their Champions League round-of-16, first-leg match at the Velodrome Stadium in Marseille, France, on Wednesday.

Photo: Reuters

A goal deep in injury-time by Ghana star Andre Ayew gave Olympique de Marseille a 1-0 win over 2010 champions Inter in their Champions League last-16, first-leg match on Wednesday and cast further doubt over Inter coach Claudio Ranieri’s future.

There was also a late goal in the night’s other tie, as substitute Valentin Stocker’s 86th-minute effort gave unheralded Swiss side Basel a shock 1-0 home win over German giants Bayern Munich.

It continued a worrying slump in Bayern’s fortunes, which has seen the four-time European champions win just three of their last seven games.

Basel’s win saw them become only the fifth team in the competition’s history to beat both the German side and Manchester United in the same campaign — four of them went on to win the trophy.

Basel had the better of the opening 20 minutes after Bayern’s France star Franck Ribery had given them a wake-up call when he broke the offside trap, but his shot was turned round the post by the Swiss side’s goalkeeper, Yann Sommer.

Basel, though, stormed back after that let-off and twice went agonizingly close to breaking the deadlock in a matter of minutes.

First Aleksandar Dragovic’s header looked to be heading for the back of the net, only for Germany No. 1 Manuel Neuer to pull off a miraculous stop, which still saw the ball bounce along the line before it was hacked clear.

It was the turn of veteran former Swiss international striker Alexander Frei to be left frustrated a minute later as he turned smartly inside the box, but while his shot beat Neuer it cannoned off the bar.

Sommer pulled off a great save midway through the second-half, as he tipped over the bar a fierce long-range effort by Bayern’s experienced Germany fullback Phillipp Lahm.

However, the deadlock was broken as the match entered its closing stages, after Jacques Zoua threaded a superb ball to the unmarked Stocker inside the box and he made no mistake sliding the ball between Neuer’s legs.

“It was a very difficult game, Bayern made us run a lot,” Sommer said.

“We have beaten two of the best teams in the world here now — Manchester United, from who we took four points in total, and Bayern, which is unbelievable for a Swiss team. But we are a good side and we believe in ourselves, so I don’t think Bayern under-estimated us,” he added.

His Bayern counterpart, Neuer, conceded that they had not deserved much from the match and their problems needed fixing quickly.

“It’s of course a very bitter defeat for us,” he said.

“You can’t even say it wasn’t deserved, we didn’t play well and didn’t take our chances. We have to deal with this internally now and fix the problems quickly. There were too many mistakes and we have to cut them out,” he added.

Marseille and Inter failed to deliver much in the sense of entertainment, until Ayew’s goal in the third minute of injury-time gave the 1993 champions some breathing space when they travel to Milan.

“We showed desire and determination,” said Marseille coach Didier Deschamps, who captained the 1993 side.

“It was good for us to score at the end, because it could have been a draw. If we don’t concede in the return leg, we’ll go through, but that won’t be enough. We’ll try to score a goal, but in any case it will be a complicated match,” he added.

Ranieri remained defiant, both about his own position as well as his side reaching the last eight.

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