Marseille Advance to 2018 Europa League Final with Win vs. Red Bull Salzburg

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistMay 3, 2018

Salzburg's Stefan Lainer vies with Marseille's Lucas Ariel Ocampos during the UEFA Europa League semi-final second leg match between FC Salzburg and Olympique de Marseille (OM) on May 3, 2018 in Salzburg, Austria. (Photo by DANIEL KRUG / APA / AFP) / Austria OUT        (Photo credit should read DANIEL KRUG/AFP/Getty Images)
DANIEL KRUG/Getty Images

Marseille advanced to their first European final in 14 years after substitute Rolando scored in extra time to seal a 3-2 aggregate win over Red Bull Salzburg and move his side into the UEFA Europa League final.

Amadou Haidara showed a cool touch in front of goal to put Salzburg ahead after 53 minutes at the Red Bull Arena, and a Bouna Sarr own-goal levelled the aggregate scoreline before Rolando rose to divert home a 116th-minute decider.

They'll face 2010 and 2012 Europa League champions Atletico Madrid at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais in Lyon on May 16, with the Spaniards beating Arsenal 1-0 on Thursday to progress with a 2-1 aggregate victory.


Salzburg's Story and a Sad Send-Off

Marseille should have known better than to expect shutting up shop would serve them well at Salzburg, who masterminded a terrific comeback over Lazio on their home soil in the quarter-finals.

The French guests came to Austria with a 2-0 cushion to their name and were passive in Thursday's first half, seemingly not eager to add to their scoreline. Not a lot changed in the second half, and Goal's Mohammed Ali described the yawn-worthy efforts:

Marseille had the majority of first-half attempts at goal, per, but failed to test opposition goalkeeper Alexander Walke, and their earlier profligacy in front of the frame later came back to haunt them.

Salzburg ruled the roost with two goals in the second period, and the French outfit were lucky to advance at all considering the corner that led to Rolando's decisive strike should have been a goal kick:

Both teams had strong penalty appeals turned down on the night. And though a match of two legs had its winner, many, like the Mirror's Alex Richards, will wonder what could have been had a video assistant referee been on hand for some tough calls:


A Clash of Personalities

It doesn't require a genius to predict how finalists Atletico Madrid will likely look to win their first major trophy in three years, with Thursday's 1-0 win over Arsenal another testament to the defensive strength that's paved their path to Lyon.

Marseille illustrated on Thursday how they can deploy this tactic when they've something to defend—although the result suggests it isn't a tactic they're suited to. One can only hope they, as underdogs for the final, don't lose sight of their attacking prowess in a bid to shore up their defence.

They travel with a chance at history ahead of them, too, per OptaJean:

Les Olympiens have scored 20 goals in their 14 matches since the group stage, while Los Rojiblancos have scored 22 times in the same amount of matches, having dropped out of the UEFA Champions League group phase.

Rudi Garcia has shaped this Marseille team into an adventurous force at their best, one that boasts star talent in the likes of Dimitri Payet, Florian Thauvin and Luiz Gustavo, to name a few. 

The predatory talents of Antoine Griezmann and Diego Costa aren't liable to be as forgiving deep behind enemy lines as Salzburg were, and Marseille will struggle if they focus too heavily on preserving a clean sheet in Lyon.


Jekyll and Hyde Haidara

For the second home knockout fixture in succession, budding starlet Haidara took the reins by scoring the goal that put Salzburg in the lead against a European foe, having also bagged a vital strike to lead Lazio 2-1 in April.

However, his heroics ultimately ended in misery, when he earned a harsh second caution for a high arm on Payet, a sorrowful end to an otherwise laudable performance.

The comparisons that have been drawn between him and RB Leipzig star Naby Keita—a Salzburg graduate—were all too evident in his 53rd-minute opener. A driving run from midfield past five defenders topped with a composed outside-the-boot finish, and the 20-year-old was unsurprisingly delighted to leave his mark:

Another sturdy performance at the Red Bull Arena only encouraged some to further those comparisons with Keita, whom he could come to succeed should Red Bull seek to use their links between the two clubs once again:

A passing percentage of 66 percent left something to be desired on the evening, but no Salzburg player managed more dribbles than Haidara (three), and only one team-mate beat his tally of five tackles.

One can expect this to have earned the young Malian yet more high-profile attention ahead of the summer transfer window.


Terrorifying Thauvin

While sections of the Marseille attack left a lot to be desired on Thursday evening, one figure who continues to demonstrate his turnaround from Premier League flop to French force of nature was Thauvin.

The right-sided maestro came to Salzburg with 24 goals and 17 assists to his name this term, and it was pointed out he won't be the only Newcastle alumnus to make a European final this term, alongside Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum:

Thauvin completed five tackles on the night, more than any other player, and with any fortune will have helped convince France coach Didier Deschamps he deserves to feature prominently at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.


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