Marseille (France), March 9 (IANS) Olympique Marseille took a big step toward qualifying for the Europa League quarterfinals with a 3-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao in the first leg of their round of 16 tie here.
Thursday's match had barely begun when Athletic's Susaeta gave away the ball in midfield, spurring a Marseille attack that resulted in a goal by Lucas Ocampos to make it 1-0 for the hosts just 44 seconds after the opening whistle, reports Efe news agency.
Things got even worse for the visitors in the 14th minute, when a poor clearance by Etxeita set up an easy goal by Dimitri Payet to double Marseille's advantage.
And over the next four minutes, only the heroics of Athletic keeper Iago Herrerin kept his side from falling behind 4-0, as he denied Germain on successive occasions.
Aritz Aduriz had a chance to claw back a goal, but put too much on the shot and the ball went well wide.
Just as it looked like half-time couldn't come soon enough for Athletic, the referee awarded a penalty for a foul by Rami in first-half stoppage time and Aduriz - the leading scorer in the Europa League - stepped to the line and converted to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Bilbao did better at the start of the second period, yet it was Marseille who scored the decisive next goal, a rocket from Ocampos in the 57th minute to bring the score to 3-1.