Olympique de Marseille 1-2 Paris Saint-Germain
1970 PSG Man Of The Match: Marco Verratti
What a victory last night! What a victory. It is always immensely satisfying earning the ‘classique’ bragging rights but to do it in the manner we did on Sunday makes it all the more special. After Thiago Motta was sent off for rashly swinging his leg at Mathieu Valbuena in the box and Andre Ayew subsequently putting his penalty away, even the most hardcore Parisien feared the worse. But, one simple strategic ploy by Laurent Blanc swung the game back in our favour.
Marseille started the better team, there is no doubt about it. 11 vs 11, they created the better openings, looked the more sprite in the final third and if anyone was going to open the scoring it was them. We dealt with the pressure, weathering that storm but going down to 10-men at the Velodrome is usually suicidal. The atmosphere was immense, the OM supporters made it hostile for us and when they went 1-0 up thanks to Ayew, you felt they would march on. But, a former Marseille man in Monsieur Blanc altered all that. To compensate the loss of Motta he brought off Ezequiel Lavezzi and in his place came on the ever improving youngster Adrien Rabiot. That way we had three men back in midfield (he stuck to the 4-3-3 formation) but with Lavezzi off it meant Edinson Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimovic could play as a two up top. Special praise for Lavezzi by the way. He really is the ultimate professional. He did not sulk, nor air any reservations about being substituted. Instead he jogged off as quick as he could, clapped and fist pumped to the young Rabiot to encourage him. He really is a top, top player and although his energy and pace was a miss, Blanc’s astute mind worked wonders.
That one simple change changed everything. We were a lot more assured, stifling the hosts and when we get on level terms on the stroke of half-time you could sense the optimism. The players believed and to be honest I do not think they ever stopped. Maxwell, the most ever reliable player to put on a Parisien shirt bagged the equaliser with a glancing header via Gregory Van der Wiel’s ball into the box. If ever there was a time to score and inject doubt into the southerner’s minds, it was just before the interval. It muted the rapturous Velordrome and we came out in the second-half the calmer of the two teams.
Up until the hour mark we really were comfortable. Then when Marquinhos – who was excellent again – was brought down by one of the Ayew brothers in the penalty area with just over 20 minutes remaining, up stepped Zlatan to put us in the lead.
Playing for nearly an hour with 10-men at the Velodrome and coming from behind to beat Marseille is as good as it gets. It is a signal of intent if anything, a champion’s performance. This is where Laurent Blanc has come up trumps, he has the belief in his youth as well as the team’s backing. I am a huge Carlo Ancelotti fan but I think had this scenario occurred during his tenure, we would have probably lost. There is something very special about Blanc, he is putting his doubters wrong. I said at the time of his appointment it was a shrewd one by QSI and it is proving to be right.