Olympique de Marseille return to the Vélodrome with a deficit following a 1-0 defeat to Panathinaikos in the third round of qualifying for the Champions League group stages.
The excitement around this new Marcelino era quickly dissipated on a difficult night in Athens. Geoffrey Kondogbia’s yellow card in the first minute set the tone for a difficult match for Les Phocéens, who were physically outmatched by their Greek opponents. This was Marseille’s first competitive match of the season, whilst Panathinaikos have already passed through one Champions League qualification match. The difference in fitness levels showed.
Marseille’s only chance of note fell to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who headed wide from a Renan Lodi cross. The duo were two of five players to make their debuts for the club on Wednesday night. Kondogbia was another, and he had a torrid night on debut, receiving a second yellow for a clumsy challenge just after the hour mark.
Down to 10 men, Marseille, who had looked solid albeit uninventive, were put under pressure from Panathinaikos, who up until that point had struggled to conjure chances of their own. However, one big chance fell to Panathinaikos, and it was all they needed. Bernard found himself open and unmarked in the Marseille box, and he finished confidently to give the Greek side an advantage heading back to the Vélodrome.
It is a far from ideal start to the season for Marseille, of whom much is expected this season following an ambitious summer transfer window. In the past two seasons, Ligue 1 rivals AS Monaco have tried and failed to pass through the qualifying rounds for the Champions League, and Marseille will have to produce a significantly better performance next week in order to avoid a similar fate.
In the meantime, Marcelino will have to lift the morale in the squad with a difficult Ligue 1 opener against Stade de Reims awaiting them on Saturday night.