By Robin Bairner at Parc des Princes
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has established himself in France as a specialist at playing Olympique de Marseille. Of course, Ibra is a potent forward against any side, but he has typically saved his best for the men from Provence.
It therefore came as something of a surprise that he was pushed to the periphery at Parc des Princes on Sunday, with Maxwell providing the cutting edge that wrought the opening goal five minutes into the second period of their 2-0 Classique win.
While left-backs are stereotypically cast as ‘unlikely heroes’, the same cannot necessarily be said of the veteran, who celebrated signing a new contract with the club a little under a fortnight ago by registering his third goal of what has been another impressive campaign.
He may not be associated with the glamour of an Ibrahimovic or even an Edinson Cavani, but the former Barcelona and Inter defender remains more than just a reliable presence for the Parisian side.
It would be unfair to cast the 32-year-old as a late bloomer, but there can be little doubt that he is now enjoying something of a belated golden age in his career.
Remarkably it took the Champions League winner until 2013 to make his debut for the national side, but now he appears a likely figure to appear for the Selecao as they chase a dream World Cup triumph on home soil in the summer.
While Maxwell thrives in Paris, Lucas Moura has spent six months treading water, though since returning from the winter break the young attacker has looked increasingly confident. His performance against OM suggests that he is a player who could also have an impact in the summer for Brazil.
A samba of stepovers over the ball with seven minutes left was showboating at its finest and left Jeremy Morel staring helplessly, highlighting the ease with which the powerful attacker is playing, though it was his driving run moments later that set up an opportunity that Ibrahimovic clipped over that was more productive.
Particularly during the first period, his direct running and willingness to commit defenders was a bane of the visiting side. One remarkable run saw him carry the ball half the length of the field, powering by tackles as the Ronaldo of old might – the Brazilian one, that is. Such a gift is not to be easily overlooked and, if he can marry such forceful running with a continued end product, there may yet be space for him in Luiz Felipe Scolari’s thinking.
The foundation of the 2-0 win might have been laid in midfield, but steely defensive duo Thiago Silva and Alex also impressed, with the latter admitting he holds out hope of receiving an unexpected late World Cup call.
Sunday night was wall-to-wall positive news for PSG, who welcomed back Edinson Cavani back into the fold with a thumping header for the second as they moved eight points clear of Monaco and edge ever closer to the Ligue 1 title.