Five Points From PSG’s Win Over Marseille In Most Dramatic Classique Ever
By Jonathan Johnson (@Jon_LeGossip)
Le Classique at Stade Velodrome on Sunday night was billed as the most important clash between the two in recent years because of its potential Ligue 1 title race ramifications and the match did not disappoint.
It was defending French champions Paris Saint-Germain who eventually prevailed though, coming away with an important 3-2 win.
Andre-Pierre Gignac scored twice for Marcelo Bielsa’s men, either side of a Blaise Matuidi stunner, as OM took a 2-1 half-time lead.
However, a second half PSG fightback ensured that Laurent Blanc and his players would be heading back to the capital with all three points thanks to Marquinhos’ equaliser and Jeremy Morel’s quick-fire own goal.
Overall, Les Parisiens shaded the game and deserved to come away with the win. Marseille were highly motivated and urged on by their passionate home support, but Bielsa’s tactical limitations were exposed and PSG’s greater big game experience came to the fore.
The result means that Le Championnat’s current titleholders remain at the summit and one point ahead of Olympique Lyonnais, who had temporarily re-taken top spot after a 3-1 win away at EA Guingamp on Saturday.
Marseille though, fall four points behind Lyon and five behind PSG with just seven games now remaining this season.
Here are five main points from Le Classique on Sunday.
A great advert for Ligue 1
Prior to the game, Le Classique was hyped up as one of the biggest encounters between the two rivals in recent years – arguably even in the history of this grudge match.
The spectacle lived up to its star billing and more, creating a more or less positive advert for Ligue 1 and domestic French football. Played out in front of a record-breaking 65,101 spectators at a colourful Stade Velodrome, there could not have been a better setting for the game.
Although the poor behaviour of Marseille fans – pelting the PSG players with objects at every opportunity – was disappointing, it could not detract too much from an otherwise absorbing encounter.
5 – @PSG_inside have won five games after having conceded the opening goal, the most in Ligue 1 this season. Resilience.
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) April 6, 2015
As a game, it had almost everything over the 90 minutes.
Marseille gave a good account of themselves in the first half, while PSG stepped up to the plate in the second. There were plenty of goals, talking points and high quality football on show.
Both sides managing to put in performances worthy of the occasion, despite the fact that the Ligue 1 title was on the line, was impressive and both sets of players must be commended for making a show out of it.
Distraught with what he felt was a poor refereeing display from Ruddy Buquet, Andre Ayew’s red card after the final whistle added what was arguably the only missing ingredient from 90 minutes of exciting French football.
PSG a team for the big occasion
Although this is not exactly something new, PSG’s win emphasised just how much of a big game team they are.
Having being overwhelmed by a Marseille side who were motivated for the big occasion in front of their own supporters, Blanc and Les Parisiens’ most experienced members of the squad took control of the situation during the break.
The capital club’s players re-emerged for the second half with renewed vim and vigour and quickly turned the game on its head with an early 131-second double salvo to silence the Velodrome. After that, PSG controlled the game and did not allow Les Phoceens back into it.
“It’s always important to win away from home, especially with seven games left in the season against a direct rival,” Blanc told the press after the match. “Plus, it was Marseille and we all know what that means.”
VIDEO: @Ligue1 madness. Missed any of the incredible action last night? Well here you go… http://t.co/8y8ipv5nE5 pic.twitter.com/0nt4TMBVUQ
— beIN SPORTS USA (@beINSPORTSUSA) April 6, 2015
“We are very happy to have won, to have controlled the game, especially in the second half, and to have shown our technical superiority,” Le President continued. “It allowed us to get back in the game and we could have even have had more goals.”
With their April schedule packed with massive games in the Coupe de France, the Coupe de la Ligue and the UEFA Champions League, as well as Ligue 1, Blanc will need to see more of that same character in the coming weeks.
Gignac going out in style
Le Classique on Sunday was likely the last appearance in the fixture for two of Marseille’s modern day icons.
Both Gignac and Ayew have spent long parts of their careers at Stade Velodrome and both are fans of the club. However, the pair – possibly along with goalkeeper and captain Steve Mandanda as well – are set to leave the southern giants this summer.
If the 3-2 defeat to PSG was to be their last appearance for their beloved OM against the enemy, then it was a particularly bittersweet one for Gignac.
3 – Marseille have only won 3 of their last 11 home league games against the title holder in Ligue 1 (D3, L5). Shaky.
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) April 5, 2015
Although the French international was on the losing side, he put in one of his best performances of the season and possibly his best ever in a Classique. Gignac took his two goals well, even if PSG’s defending left a lot to be desired, while the 29-year-old also did a good job of stoking the sensational home atmosphere during the game.
The Marseille No. 9 is expected to join former OM teammate and fellow Bleu Mathieu Valbuena at Dynamo Moscow in Russia. If he does, then he can leave southern France with his head held high after such a valiant effort in the fixture that means the most to his childhood club’s devoted supporters.
However, Gignac’s performance here may well have caught the eye of a number of other European suitors.
Win comes at a considerable cost for PSG
The 3-2 win secured three huge points for PSG, but at what cost?
It could be said that this triumph was a pyrrhic victory for Les Parisiens and coach Blanc because of the fact that they lost both David Luiz and Thiago Motta to injury.
The Brazil international pulled up short after just 33 minutes with what looked like a muscular problem, while the Azzurri man suffered a similar fate with just minutes remaining.
131 – the number of seconds between @PSG_inside’s second and third goal against @OM_Officiel. Instantaneous.
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) April 5, 2015
Both players’ reactions suggested that neither expect to feature in PSG’s Coupe de France semi-final against AS Saint-Etienne on Wednesday, the Coupe de la Ligue final against SC Bastia on Saturday, or at least the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal against Barcelona.
To add insult to Luiz and Motta’s injuries, Edinson Cavani endured yet another poor performance as his barren run in Ligue 1 continues. The Uruyguayan was withdrawn before the hour mark in Marseille and was seen berating Blanc for his decision to pull him out so early.
Despite the fact that PSG are once again under pressure now because of injuries and a demanding schedule, Le President could choose to soldier on without Cavani for a period of time in order to teach the South American another lesson after the winter training camp debacle.
Bielsa and Marseille now out of the title race?
Although with seven games left it is possibly still too early to say for sure whether or not that defeat has genuinely put paid to Marseille’s title hopes, a 10th Ligue 1 crown does now seem to be a tall order for Bielsa’s men.
OM had to win Le Classique in order to truly re-enter the title race and they failed to do that.
Bearing in mind the team’s inconsistent away record and the fact that a number of players are now facing suspension, the final seven games of the season – of which four are on the road – are going to be difficult.
Bielsa demands a lot from his players and it was unrealistic to expect them to keep up the intensity they showed in the first half of Le Classique for the second 45 minutes. El Loco’s tactical limitations were exposed and his stubbornness regarding the team’s setup arguably prevented them from clawing their way back into the game.
“It was a fair result in a match between two sides with opposing styles,” Bielsa conceded after the final whistle. “Our opponents’ philosophy won the day. We were never at ease and never managed to impose our game. We had trouble against their quantity of passes, although we did play well.”
“It’s difficult to assert that our title possibilities remain intact, but give the number of points left up for grabs it cannot be ruled out,” the charismatic Argentine also admitted. “That said, I can’t ignore the importance of this match. I’m sorry to have disappointed the crowd as the only way not to disappoint them is to win the game.”
7 – @PSG_inside have won their seventh consecutive game against Marseille in all competitions. Supremacy.
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) April 5, 2015
Bielsa has given Ligue 1 plenty of good football this season and his arrival has been a breath of fresh air in many respects. However, to expect such a thin squad to be able to meet the 59-year-old’s considerable physical demands over the course of a full season was perhaps wishful thinking.
Finishing top is now perhaps beyond them, although not entirely impossible. Second or third place is still a realistic outcome though and if Bielsa leads Marseille back to the Champions League, then it will be mission accomplished, despite this result.