Feyenoord clung on to a first-leg Europa Conference League semi-final lead to progress to the final after holding Marseille to a 0-0 draw at Stade Velodrome for a 3-2 aggregate victory.
The Eredivisie outfit weathered an everything-but-the-kitchen sink performance in attack from their hosts amid a frequently raucous atmosphere in Provence to make history.
It takes the Dutch side to a first major European final appearance since 2002, when they defeated Borussia Dortmund to claim what was then the UEFA Cup.
But for Jorge Sampaoli, it will be a draw that tastes like defeat as Les Olympiens missed the chance for a shot at their first bit of continental silverware since the 2005 Intertoto Cup.
— Feyenoord Rotterdam (@Feyenoord) May 5, 2022
With Marseille coming into the match needing a victory to at the very least enforce a run into extra time and penalties, it was a lively opening half and hour from the hosts.
Backed by an army of flare-wielding fans – to the point that visibility was seriously reduced by smoke over the first quarter-hour – they pressed hard for an early advantage.
Yet Arne Slot’s charges held firm, and the Ligue 1 side were handed a hefty creative blow when Dmitri Payet was forced off with an innocuous issue in the 33rd minute.
Luis Sinisterra subsequently missed a chance to craft a two-goal aggregate cushion for Feyenoord straight after the break when he pushed his header into Steve Mandanda’s gloves.
With time running out to find an answer, tempers began to flare across the final quarter too, with Gerson and Lutsharel Geertruida physically squaring off at one point.
Another fracas between both sets of players set the tone for a tempestuous final few minutes – but with Marseille unable to ultimately crack the Dutch defence, it was their visitors who held on to set up a trip to Tirana, where they will face Roma.
What does it mean? Feyenoord end two-decade wait for European final
It may have been without the anticipated fireworks in front of goal that the first leg served up, but Feyenoord have finally ended their wait for a return to the last stage of European football.
It has been 20 years since they last played a European fixture of such magnitude – a UEFA Super Cup loss to Real Madrid, as a curtain-raiser to the 2002-03 season.
But now they will surely fancy themselves in Albania later this month, with an unbeaten Conference League record to show (eight wins and four draws this term).
Marseille fail to fight back on home soil
After a leaky defensive performance in the Netherlands left them facing an uphill battle, Marseille may have been forgiven for thinking they had the advantage with a home second leg in front of their famously fearsome support.
But despite a typically partisan atmosphere, they failed to convert that psychological advantage into credible strength on the field – and with just three shots on target all night, despite close to two-thirds of possession, they will rue their missed opportunity.
French last-four rut continues
In falling short of the final, Marseille also fell foul of the recent poor form of Ligue 1 outfits when it has come to taking that final step in European football.
French sides have been eliminated in six of their last eight appearances in the semi-finals of a European competition, the only exceptions being Les Olympiens themselves in the 2017-18 Europa League and Paris Saint-Germain in the 2019-20 Champions League.
Feyenoord could confirm a top-three Eredivisie finish when they face PSV on Sunday, while Marseille travel to Lorient in Ligue 1 on the same day.
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