Gignac 2-2 Ibrahimovic
First half braces from the opposing strikers saw the points shared between Olympique de Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain after a keenly contested draw at the Stade Vélodrome on Sunday night.
Olympique de Marseille 2 - 2 Paris Saint-Germain
There were a host of high profile games this weekend in England, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain but perhaps none was as eagerly anticipated as Sunday night's clash between France's finest. With little love lost between the big two and the Ligue 1 lead up for grabs the crowd was in for a treat on France's south coast.
Marseille, still smarting from last week's 4-1 mauling by Valenciennes, would have been desperate to get one over the big-spending rivals and refused to be bullied by the visitors. Eight minutes in André Ayew, one of the smallest men on the field, showed his commitment with a clattering tackle on the considerably larger Zlatan Ibrahimovic. At kick off the giant Swede became the only man to have played in El Clasico in Spain, the Milan derby and OM-PSG along with Brazilian star Ronaldinho and former France coach Laurent Blanc.
Gignac on song
OM's determination paid off and, after causing a few nervous moments on the PSG bench with three free kicks in quick succession, the hosts took the lead after a lightening counter attack. Ayew scampered down the right before releasing André-Pierre Gignac who then showed lovely balance to leave PSG captain Christophe Jallet rooted to the spot before unleashing a fine shot that Salvatore Sirigu, in the visiting goal, was powerless to keep out (18'). It was Gignac's fourth goal of the season, a campaign in which he has re-found both fitness and his very best form.
Brilliant Ibrahimovic matched by Gignac
PSG's record at the Vélodrome is their worst against any team away from Paris with 22 defeats in 34 Ligue 1 matches since the club was founded in 1970. But they arrived in a rich vein of form having scored ten goals in their last four league matches and were soon level. Ibrahimovic had said during the build up to the game that he had never heard of OM defender Nicolas Nkoulou, the man charged with marking him. And the Sweden international waltzed past his Cameroonian counterpart to head home the equaliser from Maxwell's corner (23'). If that silenced the Vélodrome they were soon shell-shocked as 'Ibra' took his season's tally to nine goals with a devastatingly powerful free kick that gave Steeve Mandanda no chance (25').
Marseille, however, appear made of sterner stuff than last season and regrouped admirable to regain parity. Gignac was again the hero for the home side, timing his run to perfection to steal in behind Alex and fire home Mathieu Valbuena's corner with a bullet-header (32').
That got the home fans back on their feet and OM were nearly in the lead again only for a smart bit of goalkeeping from Sirigu to keep the scores level, the Italian doing well to block Charles Kaboré's effort (37'). In what was a brilliant game of football and an excellent advert for the French game, PSG were soon back on the attack. A great run from Jérémy Ménez created a chance for Javier Pastore but the Argentine's radar was just a little off and his shot from 15 metres out went wide (37').
PSG dominated the possession stats enjoying up almost 60% of the ball, however OM's defence and midfield managed to restrict the visitors to six shots in the opening half, the same as the home side. It was a highly entertaining opening 45 minutes and both sets of players went off to resounding cheers ringing in their ears with the crowd looking forward to what they hoped would be a second half as gripping as the first.
PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti wasted little time in making changes and threw on Kevin Gameiro at the start of the second half in place of Pastore and it nearly proved to be a masterstroke. The former Lorient man, nipping in behind Nkoulou, latched onto an excellent pass from Ménez but was just off target with his shot (53'). Twenty minutes later Ibrahimovic had a sniff of his hat-trick, however his volley, following more industrious play from Ménez, soared over the bar (73')
The second period lacked the goalmouth excitement of the first and with 16 minutes to go Ancelotti, perhaps looking to secure the draw, replaced the outstanding Ménez with Dutch summer recruit Gregory Van der Wiel. OM meanwhile had other ideas and Elie Baup decided to replace like with like replacing Gignac, who left the field to a standing ovation, with Loic Rémy for the final 11 minutes.
In the end there was to be no grandstand finish as both teams appeared happy with the draw and a share of the points. OM will, perhaps, be the happier as they keep their three point advantage over PSG ahead of their next assignment; a trip to Troyes. PSG meanwhile will look to extend their unbeaten start to the season when they welcome another promoted side Reims to the Parc des Princes in two weeks time.