Marseille strike late to pile pressure on Inter’s Ranieri

A goal with the last kick of the game from Marseille’s Andre Ayew sent Italian giants Inter Milan to their fourth consecutive defeat in their last 16 Champions League first leg tie. Inter coach Claudio Ranieri’s position will come under close scrutiny following a recent slump in fortunes that has sent his side tumbling to six losses in seven matches.

Inter looked nervy in the early exchanges as Benoit Cheyrou fired narrowly wide but they gradually worked their way into the game and Marseille keeper Steve Mandanda was forced into an excellent save to deny Diego Forlan. The best chance of the first half fell to the French however when a free-kick from Valbuena caused confusion in the Inter box only for Brandao and Diawara to squander the opportunity.

Marseille always looked the more likely to score in the second period with the Italians perhaps viewing 0-0 as a positive result in terms of the tie. However, a late flurry from Andre Ayew caused some anxiety as he got on the end of a cross from Rod Fanni only to head over before planting another header straight into the keepers arms from a corner. With the clock ticking down, Ayew forced Julio Cesar to concede another corner from a curling attempt on goal and this time he converted Valbuena’s cross to send the home fans into raptures. It was a cruel blow for Inter and for under-fire boss Claudio Ranieri. They will still fancy their chances of overhauling a one-goal deficit in the return leg in a game that may decide Ranieri’s future with the club.

There was also late drama in Wednesday night’s other Champions League fixture as a goal from Valentin Stocker four minutes from time gave Basle a 1-0 victory over Bayern Munich at St Jakob-Park.

Both sides started with attacking intentions and Franck Ribery looked an early menace for the Germans, a half-volley forcing an excellent block from Yann Sommer. Ribery had another opportunity in the 12th minute but Sommer saved again at his near post. Basle came back strongly and Bayern keeper Neuer pushed over a flick from Marco Streller and drama followed when a header from Dragovic hit the keeper and deflected on to the post before Holger Badstuber was able to clear off the line. A few minutes, Basle were again denied by the woodwork after a shot from Alexander Frei struck the bar.

After the break, both sides closed down defensively and the game seem destined for a draw until some excellent work by Jacques Zoua unlocked the Bayern defence for Stocker to gratefully slot through Neuer’s legs. It was no more than Basle deserved for their fine performance and the tie is now set up for a thrilling encounter in the return leg.

 

Harvey Mayson

Harvey Mayson is a professional sports writer and artist living in South West Scotland. He began working at his local newspaper in the south of England before going freelance to work on specialist sporting publications. He writes for a number of specialist sports sites both at home and abroad including football, horse racing and sports betting sites. He has also covered a wide range of sporting events such as the Paralympic Games, Euro 2012 and the Grand National. Harvey is also well known as an equestrian artist and can be contacted through his website.