Paris Saint-Germain had to withstand a barrage from rivals Olympique de Marseille but held on to claim a 2-0 victory over their great rivals and earn the spoils in Ligue 1’s Classique to move three points clear at the summit of Le Championnat.
On the evening on which David Beckham came off the bench to play his first 15 minutes as a PSG player, it was an own goal from Nicolas Nkoulou that was vital in differentiating the sides, as the centre-back deflected a shot from Lucas into his own goal. A fluke from Zlatan Ibrahimovic late on then secured the points.
The moment capped a whirlwind start from Carlo Ancelotti’s men in a match that would be played with an unrelenting tempo throughout. With little over a minute played, Ibrahimovic combined with the excellent Ezequiel Lavezzi for the ex-Napoli man to break the offside trap and send a firm first-time effort against the frame of Steve Mandanda’s goal.
Having been overwhelmed initially, Marseille went on to control much of the rest of the evening as PSG lost their way, relying on goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu to keep their opponents out.
With half an hour played, Joey Barton could not quite gain enough purchase on his header to trouble the Italian, and within 60 seconds Foued Kadir had nutmegged Maxwell and unleashed a fierce shot that stretched the ex-Palermo star.
Before the interval, Sirigu would be further tested. A Mathieu Valbuena free kick swerved wickedly due to a slight deflection, but the goalkeeper was firmly behind it, and moments later a similar save denied Andre-Pierre Gignac.
Marseille’s momentum was not dampened by the interval. Within 60 seconds of the restart, Valbuena had released Gignac down the left, but Sirigu was again on hand, though he was not given credit as a goal-kick was awarded. The former Toulouse striker showed his eye for the spectacular too, but his difficult overhead was touched over.
On the hour mark PSG managed a brief respite. Ibrahimovic had an effort direct from a free kick that went down as their first shot on target, and a minute later he shot wide after good work from Lucas Moura.
Although the capital side broke with purpose on many occasions, their final ball was regularly lacking, which invited further pressure from Marseille.
Mathieu Valbuena left Sirigu motionless with a long-range drive that flirted with the post, and Rod Fanni forced the shot-stopper to punch away, but Elie Baup’s side could not find a breakthrough.
Indeed, Ibrahimovic’s late goal, when a Jeremy Menez cross was deflected in off his knee, told the story of OM’s night,
It was something of a role reversal for OM, who have been known for their ability to win scrappy games, but this defeat looks to have left the title race as a two-horse race between Lyon and PSG. And, if anything, this match was a reminder that the race for the French crown is by no means a foregone conclusion.