RB Leipzig coach Ralph Hasenhüttl benched Timo Werner, Emil Forsberg, and captain Willi Orban for one of their biggest games of the season. The gamble backfired as Marseille sent the German side out with a 5-2 win.
Marseille 5-2 RB Leipzig (5-3 agg), Stade Velodrome
Ilsanker 6' (og), Sarr 9', Thauvin 38' Payet 60', Sakai 90+4' - Bruma 2', Augustin 55')
As the clock ticked down on RB Leipzig's frantic defeat to Marseille, Timo Werner and Emil Forsberg watched on from the substitues bench, alongside his skipper.
After taking command of the tie with Bruma's strike after just 70 seconds, the German side conspired to fall behind on aggregate then restore parity, before finally succumbing to a sensational individual effort from Marseille skipper Dmitri Payet before a late cherry on the French side's cake.
A wide open game that had seen six goals in the first hour was still very much alive for Leipzig after Payet glided past a pair of Leipzig defenders before carressing the ball home with the outside of his right boot. But still Werner remained seated as defender Bernardo clambered on and Werner's fellow frontman Yusuf Poulsen failed to put away the injury time half-chance that would have booked a last four place.
The surprises started early on Thursday evening, Hasenhüttl changing the shape of his side from the familiar 4-2-2-2 to a 3-1-4-2 that forced Marcel Sabitzer and Kevin Kampl out of position and left no room for Werner, Orban or Forsberg.
It looked an inspired move early on when Bruma collected Jean-Kevin Augustin's flick to power home a goal that put the Red Bulls in a dominant position. But soon after, chaos ensued. First Leipzig failed to clear their lines and when keeper Peter Gulacsi palmed away the second of a double save, Stefan Ilsanker was in the wrong place at the wrong time and diverted in to his own net.
Marseille still had plenty of work to do but Bouna Sarr got the crowd at the Stade Velodrome on their feet again three minutes later, cutting in from the right wing and lashing a stunning strike past a helpless Gulacsi. Payet then had a screamer disallowed.
If the lack of defensive leadership didn't play a part in the second, it was decisive in the goal that put the French side ahead for the first time. Ibrahima Konate, the 18-year-old Frenchman preferred to Orban, lost concentration with Payet standing over a freekick and one of the world's best dead ball strikers picked out Florian Thauvin on the six yard line. Thauvin did the rest.
Leipzig came out unchanged for the second period but a slow opening forced Hasenhüttl's hand. But it was Forsberg and not Werner, who scored the only goal in the first leg, to whom the Austrian boss turned. Again the impact of a change was instant, though little to do with Forsberg. Augustin picked up a brilliant and inventive Naby Keita backheel before firing the visitors back in the lead by virtue of away goals.
Enter Payet. The former West Ham man's solo effort put Marseille back in charge of the tie but Leipzig looked to have time to contribute to a week of European comebacks. The frenetic nature of the contest meant another chance was always likely to come and when it did it was to Poulsen. The ball fell to the Dane 12 yards out to the left of the penalty box but he didn't quite catch it and a deflection carried it in to the keeper's arms.
With Gulacsi up for a late corner, Marseille broke and right back Hiroki Sakai found himself out near the right touchline with an open goal, an opportunity he wouldn't pass up. Leipzig, and Hasenhüttl will be wondering whether their starting eleven has cost them the opportunity to reach a European semifinal.