PLAYER RATINGS | Benfica 2-1 Marseille: OM return to Vélodrome with hope thanks to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang goal

UEFA Europa League, Quarter-finals, 11/04/24

Olympique de Marseille put in an uninspired performance against Benfica but return to the Vélodrome next week with hope thanks to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s second-half goal, which opened out goals from Rafa Silva and former Parisien Ángel Di María.

The only way that Marseille are getting into the UEFA Champions League next season is by winning this season’s Europa League. Les Phocéens were essentially playing to save their season at the Estadio da Luz, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell given the lack of enthusiasm and intensity from Jean-Louis Gasset’s men in the first half. 

The warning signs were evident early on with Alexander Bah getting goal-side of Chancel Mbemba and latching onto an inswinging cross. It was a chance that could easily have led to a goal, but luckily for OM, the defender’s contact was far from clean. 

Especially down Marseille’s left-hand side, Benfica made their way into dangerous positions at will and it didn’t take them long to make it count. Silva’s run from deep went completely untracked and as he latched on to a simple reverse ball, he found himself relatively unpressured in the box. A poor touch saw the ball get away from him but Silva nonetheless managed to toe-poke the ball past Pau Lopez.

https://twitter.com/RMCsport/status/1778510211302445286

Marseille haven’t lost their last four games in all competitions. Form eludes them but Benfica aren’t exactly in their finest form either; their two performances against Toulouse FC earlier in the tournament are a testament to that. However, Marseille lacked the quality to cause their Portuguese opposition serious problems. The final ball was often lacking; that was especially true of Amine Harit, who often undid all of his good work as soon as he arrived in the final third. 

It was a limp first half, an unacceptable first half given what was at stake for OM and it got worse before the break with Quentin Merlin being stretchered off with what looked like a serious ankle injury. Les Phocéens’ evening went from bad to worse when former Paris Saint-Germain forward Di María doubled Benfica’s advantage, finishing off a sleek counter-attack.

However, Benfica took their foot off the accelerator and were made to pay. In OM’s first moment of quality, substitute Azzedine Ounahi slipped a perfectly weighted pass that split the Benfica defence. Aubameyang latched onto it, opened his body and curled into the far corner. In his current form, the Gabonese forward doesn’t need a second invitation. 

Harit had a good chance at the back post but neither side could create the chance to get another goal. Marseille therefore return to the Vélodrome for next week’s return leg with hope.

Marseille player ratings

Pau Lopez – 4
Quentin Merlin – N/A

The former FC Nantes full-back struggled positionally in the first half, with attacks streaming down his side. The frequency at which he was exposed by Benfica alluded to a structural issue. Merlin then went over on his left ankle just before the break. It was immediately clear that he would need to be replaced. Removed on a stretcher, he was replaced by Iliman Ndiaye (4), who

Leonardo Balerdi – 6

The most assuring of Marseille’s defenders, who looked particularly vulnerable in the first half. The Argentinian made a crucial intervention in the first half, preventing a good chance with a last-ditch tackle. Balerdi won all of his aerial duels and showed a level of aggression that many of his teammates sorely lacked. 

Samuel Gigot – 4
Chancel Mbemba – 4
Luis Henrique – 4
Jordan Veretout – 5
Geoffrey Kondogbia – 6
Amine Harit – 3

A truly classic Harit performance. The Moroccan looks so impressive with his impressive carries from deep, however, he looks lost as soon as he finds himself in the final third. There was a lack of precision with his final pass and plenty of poor decisions. He could also have done better with his volley in the second half, which would have restored parity. 

Faris Moumbagna – 3

Moumbagna is really struggling to justify his investment. He was absent against Benfica, touching the ball just 15 times in 53 minutes, and losing the ball on eight occasions. The Cameroonian is lacking any presence up front. Another casting error from Marseille?

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – 6

GFFN | Luke Entwistle

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