LYON, France (Reuters) - One mistake at each end of the field and an injury to playmaker Dimitri Payet in an unhappy half hour undid Olympique de Marseille’s bid to win the Europa League for the first time on Wednesday.
After seeing his side beaten 3-0 by Atletico Madrid, coach Rudi Garcia was left to reflect on a series of misfortunes which cost them any chance of upsetting their streetwise opponents.
There was a key moment in the fourth minute when Payet slipped a ball through the Atletico defence to Valere Germain but the forward skewed his shot wide with only goalkeeper Jan Oblak to beat.
Marseille still took control, only to gift Atletico the opener when Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa failed to control goalkeeper Steve Mandanda’s pass out and Gabi intercepted before setting Antoine Griezmann free to score in the 21st minute.
Those two mistakes were more than the Spanish side needed to take control of the game.
“We had the best goal scoring chance right at the start and then we made a mistake, trying to build an attack, and that cost us a goal,” Garcia told reporters.
“Against a team like Atletico Madrid, you can’t afford to give away a goal like that because things go a lot more complicated.”
It got even worse when captain Payet, who propelled Marseille to the final with three goals and six assists in the knockout stages, limped off injured in floods of tears just after the half hour.
“Atletico are a great defensive team and in this kind of match, you need your best players in top shape,” Garcia said.
“Losing Dimitri was obviously a big issue for us. We lost a great player at set-pieces, if there’s one part of the game where we could have been dangerous, it would have been set- pieces.”
Garcia admitted Payet had been “a bit apprehensive” before the game.
“He wasn’t sure he could play freely....he was not 100 percent but in this kind of match it’s a risk you have to take.”
Garcia recognised that the second half was tough as Atletico stepped up a gear.
Even so, Marseille were agonisingly close to dragging themselves back into the match when a header from Kostas Mitroglou hit the inside of the post and bounced across the face of Oblak’s goal to safety.
“It was hard to bring Kostas on earlier because he was not 100 percent,” Garcia said.
“This was our 61st match this season and obviously players are getting tired in these last few weeks,” he said. “If the same group had been in top shape, we would have been able to stay close to this huge Atletico team.”
Even so, he was proud of a run which began in the competition’s third qualifying round in August and involved 19 matches.
“This defeat does not take anything away from our great campaign,” Garcia said.
Reporting by Brian Homewood, editing by Ed Osmond