Clasico honours to PSG
By D. Crossan
Paris Saint-Germain centre-half Alex scored the winner as PSG beat Marseille 2-1 at the Parc des Princes to move level at the top with Montpellier on 63 points, albeit with an inferior goal difference and having played a game more.
Jérémy Ménez gave PSG an early lead which was cancelled out by a 59th-minute André Ayew header, only for Alex to score in similar fashion a minute later to seal a vital victory for the home club. The result extended Marseille’s unwanted club record run of games without a victory to nine. PSG captain Mohamed Sissoko was sent off late on for a second yellow card - his second early bath in four league games.
Montpellier’s 2-1 home win over Sochaux on Saturday evening had piled the pressure on PSG, who will be hoping Marseille can do them a favour when they take on the league leaders at the Stade Vélodrome on Wednesday evening.
Ménez's early strike
Nene, restored to the starting line-up after being left out for the loss at Nancy, played a role in the PSG opener in the sixth minute. The Brazilian had to apologise after his huff in Lorraine but the club top scorer remains a tricky customer when he plays and he picked out Christophe Jallet at the edge of the box. Jallet’s mishit volley deflected off Ayew and Ménez reacted quickly to steer the ball beyond Steve Mandanda for his fifth goal of the league campaign. It was a fitting reward for a bright start from PSG.
Carlo Ancelotti sent out a team without a recognised centre-forward, just as he had in his first Ligue 1 game in charge when PSG enjoyed a 3-1 home win over Toulouse in Week 20. Club captain Mamadou Sakho was again on the bench with Sissoko wearing the armband.
PSG boss midfield in early stages
With Sissoko, Blaise Matuidi and Thiago Motta as deep-lying midfielders PSG bossed the middle of the park against a Marseille side low on confidence. OM, however, gradually gained a foothold and Morgan Amalfitano flashed a shot wide before the half-hour after latching on to a weak Alex clearing header.
Eight minutes before the break Mathieu Valbuena delivered a fine free-kick which Alou Diarra headed wide and two minutes before the interval Diarra’s goalbound shot was deflected over by Alex as OM pressed. From the ensuing corner Stéphane Mbia headed wide.
It had been a tactical first half as befitting a meeting of minds between Ancelotti, formerly of AC Milan, and Didier Deschamps, the ex-Juventus boss. PSG president Nasser al-Khelaifi popped into the club dressing room at half-time and his words seemed to have had an impact as ten minutes after the restart a fine Ménez cross was met by Nene on the volley, the 13-goal man narrowly missing the target.
Drama on the hour
But in the 59th minute OM equalised through Ayew, who headed home after Loïc Rémy had headed left-back Cesar Azpilicueta’s deep cross his way. The Ghanaian international’s eighth league goal of the season - his second in as many games - was reward for another brave display as he played through the pain barrier, suffering with an injured shoulder.
OM were level for a single minute as Alex conneceted with Nene’s inswinging corner, beating Diarra in the air and giving Mandanda no chance. The Brazilian centre-half is forging a reputation as a scorer of important goals, having also netted in the 2-2 draw with Montpellier at the Parc des Princes.
Brandao came on for Rémy as OM chased a second equaliser and the Brazilian forward’s header from a corner forced Salvatore Sirigu into a fabulous save. Soon afterwards Benoît Cheyrou fired over with his weaker right foot from close range after a lovely Diarra lay-off.
Coupe de la Ligue hopes
Marseille’s remaining hope for the season is to beat Lyon in the Coupe de la Ligue final on Saturday night at the Stade de France to lift the trophy for the third time in as many seasons since Deschamps succeeded Eric Gerets as coach. PSG make the short journey to bottom club Auxerre in the league the following evening.