Paris Saint-Germain vs. Marseille: 6 Things We Learned
Paris Saint-Germain took the spoils and three important points in the Ligue 1 title race by beating fierce rivals Olympique de Marseille 2-0 in Le Classique at the Parc des Princes on Sunday.
With a potential eight-point gap to open up over title rivals AS Monaco following Les Monegasques’ 2-0 defeat at AS Saint-Etienne on Saturday, goals from Maxwell and the returning Edinson Cavani secured the win.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was seeking to become the fixture’s most prolific goalscorer with one more goal, but he had to settle for turning provider instead as Lucas Moura took centre stage with a flamboyant performance.
The win, PSG’s fourth in their last five meetings with their bitter rivals, moves them eight points clear at the top of Le Championnat but 21 clear of Marseille. Although the race is not quite over, it does seem too big a gap for Monaco or anybody else to overcome.
44 - Paris SG have won 44 games in Ligue 1 since last season, 11 more than any other team. Domination.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) March 2, 2014
Laurent Blanc was delighted with how his side coped with the pressure of the occasion and took advantage of their rivals' slip-up. As he revealed after the match:
For all the people who love Paris Saint-Germain, beating Marseille is always very special.
Tonight, we're happy to have won the Classique but above all to have taken the three points, which was important after the other results this weekend [notably Monaco's 2-0 loss to Saint-Etienne].
Now we need to recuperate and prepare well for our trip to Bastia. But before that, we'll savour this win. Bravo to the players! They prepared well and were suitably rewarded.
Here are six things we learned from PSG 2-0 Marseille.
Mesmerising Lucas Moura
True to Lucas Moura's form so far this season, the Brazilian seems to enjoy his best performances in the games where he unfortunately does not score a goal or provide an assist.
On the night, the Selecao star could have scored one of the best goals in recent memory with a superb dribble that required a goal-line clearance to quell the danger. He was also a constant menace, looking good in possession and showing some brilliant touches while utilising his searing pace.
64 - Lucas Moura has completed 64 dribbles in Ligue 1 this season, more than any other player. Acrobat.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) March 3, 2014
But sadly he supplied no end product on the night. This is all too familiar with both the Brazilian and Ezequiel Lavezzi, who occupies a similar role alongside the more prolific Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani.
The 21-year-old's FIFA World Cup dreams will not last much longer unless he starts to provide on a more consistent basis, particularly with goals.
Too Much Glitz, Not Enough Graft for OM?
Jose Anigo opted for an attack-minded Marseille starting XI at the Parc des Princes, making the most of the wealth of attacking talents who are available to him.
However, that team left a lot to be desired when it came to being responsible at the back. That task was almost exclusively left to the impressive Alaixys Romao in defensive midfield.
Therein lies the problem.
Marseille are an unbalanced team—rich in creative and attacking players but poor defensively. Naive for the first goal, they were exposed for the second by a brilliant Gregory van der Wiel cross and perfect Edinson Cavani header.
When OM went shopping for new talent last summer, they overlooked some key areas in their squad that were just not strong enough, particularly wide at the back. Those holes still exist, and failure to adequately fill them has cost them too often this season.
Cavani's Triumphant Return
Edinson Cavani was reintroduced to the Parc des Princes after a one-month absence with 20 minutes left to play. Inside of eight minutes, he was already back on the scoresheet, bagging a thumping header from a superb Gregory van der Wiel cross.
The Uruguayan needed to have an instant impact in order to pick up where he left off, having already netted 13 goals this season. He did so by showing no signs of rustiness.
4 - Edinson Cavani is the most prolific substitute in Ligue 1 this season with four goals after coming off the bench. Impact.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) March 3, 2014
"El Matador’s" return, despite strike partner Zlatan Ibrahimovic's rich vein of recent form, will be a boost for PSG domestically and in Europe. It looks as if it comes at just the right time with the Swede looking frustrated at times on Sunday.
Marseille Guilty of over-Respecting PSG
For the first 45 minutes at the Parc des Princes, Marseille gave as good as they got from their hosts and were every bit PSG’s equals. Inside of five second-half minutes, Les Phoceens were guilty of giving Zlatan Ibrahimovic far too much space, which led to Maxwell’s opener.
It was an error that has become a common occurrence with OM this season, and it proved to be a costly lapse in concentration. Until that point, Jose Anigo's side had appeared undaunted by the task ahead of them and benefited from their coach's adventurous team selection.
Taking a similar attitude into their remaining games this season could yet help them secure UEFA Champions League qualification.
Despite the fact that he came into the match chasing a personal record of becoming the undisputed top scorer in Le Classique, Zlatan Ibrahimovic put individual achievement aside to ensure that PSG secured an important three points.
His brilliantly disguised pass for close friend and teammate Maxwell for the Brazilian’s second goal against Marseille this season was pure excellence and moves him onto 10 assists for the campaign so far. The Swede now leads Ligue 1 in both goals (22) and assists.
Although it was a largely frustrating night for him in front of goal from a personal point of view, struggling for chances thanks to Ezequiel Lavezzi’s profligacy alongside him, the talismanic striker still made a telling contribution.
Marseille Lacking Penetration
Surprisingly, considering the range of attacking talent available to Jose Anigo prior to the game, Marseille showed precious little going forward. The visitors were not overawed in the first half, but their expensively assembled front line did not provide the cutting edge that it should have.
OM are still too reliant on the goals of Andre-Pierre Gignac, and French internationals like Mathieu Valbuena and Dimitri Payet should be rising to the occasion more.
With too many players with similar qualities underperforming or failing to blend adequately, Les Phoceens are a predictable side going forward.