When Marseille encounter Paris Saint-Germain in a French Ligue 1 match, the game is billed as ‘Le Classique’ as the rivalry between the two largest cities in France has always been intense throughout the years and their respective football teams generally produce an entertaining but fiercely competitive spectacle whenever the fixture is staged. The Clash at Stade de Velodrome on Sunday evening was no exception with both Marseille and PSG still hoping to win the league title prior to the game.
67,000 spectators packed in the stadium on Sunday and the home fans were rewarded with an opening goal by Marseille striker Andre-Pierre Gignac. Head Coach Marcelo Bielsa had decided to select the more experienced Gignac to lead the Marseille attack ahead of summer signing Michy Batshuayi, who had been preferred in recent weeks, and he was rewarded with a typical centre-forward headed goal by Gignac.
However, a hamstring injury incurred by David Luiz and the resulting delay in proceedings appeared to affect the concentration of the Marseille players. When the game resumed with Luiz leaving the field, the PSG midfield players were allowed far too much freedom in their next attack allowing Blaise Matuidi to curl a shot around Marseille ‘keeper Steve Mandanda to claim an equaliser.
To their credit, Marseille responded and regained the lead when a neat defensive splitting pass allowed Gignac to race clear of the away defence and drive the ball into the corner of the PSG net. The home fans sensed victory against their bitter rivals.
Whatever PSG manager Laurent Blanc said to his players during the interval produced the desire effect as a more purposeful attitude ensued with more emphasis on an attacking the Marseille defence. A second equaliser duly arrived when the unmarked Marquinhos was allowed to direct a loose ball into the home net from inside the penalty area. Worse was to follow for the home team soon afterwards when Jeremy Morel diverted a cross into his own goal, although PSG striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic would probably have scored but for the intervention of the Marseille defender.
There were no further goals despite intense attacking pressure from Marseille but with that vital final quality ball just lacking. For PSG, Javier Pastore and Marco Verratti deserve special mention for their decent performances in midfield as their team reclaimed the leadership of Ligue 1 by one point from Lyon.
Marseille will view the defeat as a wasted opportunity and they are now five points adrift of PSG with seven games remaining. As per the corresponding fixture last season when losing 2-1, Marseille were guilty of squandering a lead via lapses of concentration and their title dreams will fade even further should they fail to win at Bordeaux in a difficult fixture next weekend.
The French Lique 1 title now appears destined to be a tussle between Lyon an PSG and much will depend on how the current league leaders cope with a congested fixture list as they are still competing for two other domestic trophies plus the Champions League.