Payet sets up Marseille to beat Salzburg 2-0 in Europa semis

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PV Sports Desk : Dimitri Payet looked back to his best after setting up both goals as Marseille beat Salzburg 2-0 in the first leg of their Europa League semifinal on Thursday.

Winger Florian Thauvin headed in Payet’s curling free kick deep to the back post in the 15th minute, although video replays showed Thauvin headed the ball onto his outstretched hand before it went in.

“I did touch it with my hand, it seems,” Thauvin said on beIN Sports television. “But I’m happy we won and that we’re in a good position to qualify.”

It was Thauvin’s 22nd goal of an outstanding season which has seen him break back into the France squad ahead of the World Cup.

Payet is fighting to keep his France squad place, but another performance like this will make it hard for coach Didier Deschamps to freeze him out of Russia. He was involved in all of Marseille’s best moves at Stade Velodrome, and even chased back to harry Salzburg’s players.

But he did the most damage with his passing, expertly setting up substitute Clinton N’Jie for Marseille’s second goal in the 63rd.

N’Jie had been on the field only a few minutes, but brilliantly took down a pass near the halfway line and flicked it to Payet sprinting down the left. Payet then resisted the temptation to cross quickly, instead waiting for N’Jie to drift into the penalty area before feeding him with a perfect pass to fire home from.

Salzburg beat Marseille at home and drew away in the group stage this season. But the Austrian side did not threaten until the 29th, when a fine run and shot from right back Stefan Lainer forced a smothering save from goalkeeper Yohann Pele.