Marseille took a firm grip on their UEFA Europa League semi-final against Salzburg with a goal in each half, while the visitors failed to get a valuable away goal despite several presentable opportunities.

Dimitri Payet had already had one chance to deliver a free-kick into the Salzburg area without reward, and when the visitors erred again they were made to pay. The OM skipper’s inviting set piece from the right was misjudged by Alexander Walke and Florian Thauvin applied the finishing touch at the far post.

Salzburg’s best chances in the first half came from their full-backs, Stefan Lainer fizzing a shot low past the upright before Andreas Ulmer fired narrowly over just before the break. Early in the second half, Munas Dabbur’s flick set Hannes Wolf clear, and only the outstretched left hand of Yohann Pelé denied the visitors an equaliser.

Marseille celebrate their victory©AFP/Getty Images

Instead, Marseille doubled their advantage. Clinton Njie set Payet away down the left and raced into the area to collect the perfectly weight return to slot past Walke. Pelé promptly blocked from Valon Berisha and Salzburg kept coming forward, Ulmer supplying a cross from which Fredrik Gulbrandsen struck the post with a half-volley, leaving the Austrian side needing another home comeback next week.

Key player: Dimitri Payet (Marseille)

Two assists on the night, four chances created and eight crosses meant Payet extended his lead at the top of the FedEx Performance Zone rankings.

Magical Payet bewitches and beguiles

Dimitri Payet’s class once again thrilled the Stade Vélodrome. It was a major surprise when Rudi Garcia made the French international his captain yet the attacking midfielder leads by example, particularly now he is back to full fitness after injuries earlier in the season. Two accomplished assists on the night made it five in the knockout stage to go with three important goals. Payet has timed his return to peak form at just the right time.
David Crossan, Marseille reporter

Salzburg's Fredrik Gulbrandsen after hitting the post

Salzburg’s Fredrik Gulbrandsen after hitting the post©AFP/Getty Images

Salzburg need home help again

Despite being much improved after the break, Salzburg find themselves at a distinct disadvantage heading into the second leg after leaving empty-handed despite several chances to get an away goal. They came from behind against all odds against Lazio and will have to do so again in a week’s time to complete their fairy-tale story.
James Thorogood, Salzburg reporter

Key stats

  • Payet is the joint leading assist provider in this season’s UEL with six
  • Thauvin now has 22 goals in all competitions this season
  • OM have won eight of nine home European games this season
  • Salzburg lost two of three matches in Europe after going 19 unbeaten

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