As with practically everything else this season, it took Paris Saint-Germain longer than you would have expected to take the lead against Marseille in Sunday’s Classique. In fact there were long periods in the first half when it looked like it would never happen.
Marseille took the lead right on the half hour mark through Andre-Pierre Gignac. Blaise Matuidi equalized for Paris just five minutes later, Gignac restored Marseille’s lead just minutes before the break.
As the teams headed into the locker room for halftime, it felt as if PSG had just been dealt a demoralizing blow. And on the evidence of the majority of their performances this season, it wasn’t entirely clear whether they’d be capable of coming back against this Marseille side that had been stronger throughout the first 45 minutes.
But whatever halftime talk Laurent Blanc gave must have worked because PSG came out of the blocks roaring in the second half. They equalized less than five minute in, through Marquinhos and then took the lead two minutes later when Zlatan Ibrahimovic forced an own goal from Jeremy Morel.
Once PSG had the lead they took command of the match and quite possibly the title race. The win kept them in top spot, one point ahead of Lyon and a full five ahead of Marseille. Marseille kept fighting, but in the end PSG’s superior quality came to the fore. It’s a shame really because Marcelo Bielsa’s team played well enough to get something out of this match.
With a roaring home crowd behind them, they pressed and harried PSG in the early stages of the match. However once they had the lead, PSG fell reverted to its usual possession game. As Bielsa’s men began to tire of chasing, it was PSG who retained the more dangerous edge, even amidst the hail of garbage and missiles rained down on them by the crowd.
It was a moral victory for PSG and a demoralizing loss for Marseille. Such is the nature of Le Classique, a game that’s always the biggest in France but was even bigger this year due to the title implications. PSG are incredibly still alive in four competitions even at this late stage in the season and face a difficult two-legged Champions League tie with Barcelona this month. However their run-in for the end of the season in the league doesn’t look to bad apart from daunting away fixtures to Nantes and Montpellier. But Lyon are just a point behind and in their current form, Hubert Fournier’s men are likely to take it down to the wire. PSG’s entire domestic campaign has been undermined this season by a tendency to drop points. If Blanc can find a way to arrest that tendency, the title will be PSG’s.
But adding to that challenge will be the apparent losses of David Luiz and Thiago Motta. The Brazilian defender pulled up early in the match and went off with what appears to be a hamstring injury. Motta was forced off with another injury late in the game. Both are know in doubt for the first leg of PSG’s clash with Barcelona.
Also of concern for Blanc will be the attitude of Edinson Cavani who was pulled off in the second half after spending an indifferent hour or so on the pitch. The Uruguayan striker exchanged words with Blanc on his way off and was visibly frustrated at being forced to take his seat on the bench.
Cavani doesn’t seem like himself at the moment, or like he’ll remain at PSG too much longer. But Blanc’s team isn’t short on goals. Ibrahimovic was the most prolific attacker in France last month while supporting players like Lucas Moura, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Matuidi have all proved capable of finding the net. In spite of the injuries and dropped points, it’s all still on for PSG. If Blanc can manage this team, he might be able to turn this season into something special.