Paris Saint-Germain 2-0 Olympique de Marseille
1970 PSG Man Of The Match: Lucas Moura
It is now six straight victories over Marseille in all competitions with last night’s being one of the biggest. Goals from Lucas Moura and Edinson Cavani ensured that the ‘classique’ bragging rights will be exclusive to the Parisians who can now rejoice at being just one point off the top. It is a far cry from the eight points it was at the beginning of October heading into the home clash with AS Monaco.
The biggest news ahead of kick-off was that Zlatan Ibrahimovic made the bench after being named in the initial group on Saturday. With Thiago Motta suspended, Javier Pastore continued in the midfield trio allowing Ezequiel Lavezzi to start further afield and Marco Verratti returned to the fray after missing the APOEL game. Serge Aurier continued at right-back in the absence of Gregory Van der Wiel.
Marcelo Bielsa’s men started the game in their newly accustomed 4-2-3-1 and were thoroughly impressive. For the opening 25 minutes they were the better side. Andre-Pierre Gignac set the tone as he rattled the woodwork with a header via a corner. Soon after that Romain Alessandrini went close with an impressive volley that had Salvatore Sirigu scrambling. The 25-year-old was a constant thorn in the Parisian side as he was one of the visitors’ better players.
The most impressive thing about Bielsa’s men was their pressing game. Paris had not faced a domestic side like this during the campaign. They played with intent, pressured us when we had the ball and stifled our play. But, their game plan did not last as their legs began to tire – particularly in the second-half.
We grew into the game as the minutes ticked on. Pastore had a decent effort saved at the near post by Steve Mandanda after a beautiful back-heel by Lucas to set him up. It was the Brazilian though who opened the scoring in the 37th minute. Thiago Silva brought the ball out from the back, lofted it forward to Lavezzi who then nodded down for Cavani to return and play across the face of goal for the number seven to sweep home. Benjamin Mendy was sluggish and failed to see the little man run across him to get to the ball first.
The tempo after the interval was a whole lot slower which suited us. Sirigu though very nearly gifted the leaders a way back into the game by scuffing his kick into Gignac’s path but he failed to make the most of it.
The biggest cheer of the night with exception to the goals was the sight of Zlatan making his way back onto a football pitch. The 33-year-old received a raucous welcome as he came on for Lavezzi in the 66th minute. Blanc altered things slightly to a 4-3-2-1 allowing Ibra to lead the line on his own and Cavani was reverted to a role on the left-hand side. He looked sharp and was obviously keen to make an impression in his 100th appearance for the club.
But it was ‘El Matador’ who settled matters five minutes from time with a stunning header. Aurier played a beautiful teasing ball which the Uruguayan stalked with precision before he finished emphatically with his head. That is now five goals in five games for a player who is under so much scrutiny.
Just under 10 minutes before that, Les Phoceens were reduced to 10-men when Gilbert Imbula clashed with Yohan Cabaye. It was harsh to say the least. Even a yellow card would have raised an eyebrow or two. Would it have made a difference? Difficult to say but Marseille were not the team they were in the first-half as they ran out of gas.
In the end the spoils were ours. It is a vital win in the championship race. We leapfrog Lyon who sat in second momentarily and now just a point off the leaders heading into the international break. It is also seven straight victories in all competitions. After a mediocre start to the campaign, we can have no complaints at how well things are going. With Ibra back as well we can very much look forward to the trip to Metz a week on Friday.