Inter Milan paid
the price for their negative tactics as the 2010 European
champions were stunned by an Andre Ayew stoppage-time goal to
lose 1-0 at Olympique Marseille in the first leg of their
Champions League last 16 tie on Wednesday.
Ayew broke the deadlock with a glancing header from Mathieu
Valbuena's corner in the third minute of time added on leaving
the Inter players shaking their heads in disbelief as the French
side stretched their unbeaten run in all competitions to 16
Inter coach Claudio Ranieri left Argentine striker Diego
Milito on the bench, even though he is the only player to have
scored for the team in their last seven games, netting all the
goals in the 4-4 home draw against Palermo in Serie A three
Wesley Sneijder and Mauro Zarate were unimpressive against
Marseille but Milito was never called upon as Ranieri used only
two of his three possible substitutions with Giampaolo Pazzini
also staying on the bench.
"Milito had influenza for a week. I did not want to risk
him," Ranieri told reporters.
"Marseille were pushing on the left flank and Joel Obi did a good job to give us more balance."
Ranieri appeared unconcerned by the task facing the
Nerazzurri in the return leg at the San Siro on March 13.
"The San Siro will be full and it will be an advantage for
us," he said. "We can score two goals no problem.
"We played well, we had good counter-attacks, we had more
opportunities and they scored on their first chance.
"We did not deserve to lose," Ranieri added.
Marseille coach Didier Deschamps was cautious about his
team's chances of making the quarter-finals.
"It's a small advantage. It's going to be complicated," he
told reporters. "We will not be in a position to only sit back
Inter's best chance of the match came in the 11th minute
when Steve Mandanda tipped a Diego Forlan half-volley over the
The hosts enjoyed plenty of possession but were made to wait
until the half-hour to threaten Julio Cesar when a free-kick
landed in front of goal only for Brandao and Souleymane Diawara
to get muddled up and put the ball out of play while the Inter
defence went AWOL.
The unmarked Zarate had a chance for Inter eight minutes
before the break but his low shot was too weak to bother
Inter looked dangerous on the break but the Marseille
defence held a high line and increased the pressure in the
second half, although they struggled to create clear chances.
Obi replaced Zarate shortly after the hour as Ranieri
looked to add fresh blood to his front-line.
His Marseille counterpart Didier Deschamps replaced Brandao
with Jordan Ayew in the 73rd minute but the Ghana forward
produced an equally unimpressive performance.
Just when it looked as though Inter were going to keep a
rare clean sheet, Ayew, who recently returned from the Africa Cup of
Nations where he helped Ghana reach the semi-finals, headed
home with the last move of the game.
"It's good for him, but it's even better for the team," said
"He's back from a place where it was 35 degrees Celsius with
a lot of humidity. He played six games [at the Africa Cup of Nations] and they [Ghana] were expected at least in the final so
it's been psychologically tough on him, too."
Inter, who have now lost six of their last seven games in
all competitions, have failed to keep a clean sheet since they
beat Serie A rivals AC Milan 1-0 on January 15.
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