Week 14 Review: Zlatan, Barton make their mark
By A. Scott
Joey Barton's Ligue 1 debut was a winning one, as Olympique de Marseille kept in touch at the top of the table with bitter rivals Paris Saint-Germain, who were inspired in Week 14 by the returning Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
PSG are back on top of the table after recording a first win in four Ligue 1 outings, disposing of ESTAC Troyes 4-0 at the Parc des Princes. Despite the final scoreline, the visitors were the better side for much of the first hour in the capital but, not for the first time this season, Ibrahimovic had a decisive impact on proceedings.
Ibrahimovic: 12 goals in 11 games
The super Swede set up the opening two goals, for Maxwell and the superb Blaise Matuidi, before adding two of his own in the final 20 minutes to take his goal tally to 12 in 11 Ligue 1 appearances. With the game coming on the back of a draining trip to Ukraine, where they beat Dynamo Kyiv 2-0 in the Champions League in midweek, PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti was pleased with an "intelligent" performance from his team.
"The team has reacted really well this week," said the Italian, just seven days after claiming they were in crisis. "We have scored six goals, not conceded any, have qualified for the next stage of the Champions League and got back to winning ways in Ligue 1. That is a lot in a short space of time."
OM edge Lille
Marseille are behind PSG on goal difference, and with a game in hand, after beating LOSC Lille 1-0 at the Stade Vélodrome on Sunday night. Barton lasted 74 minutes on his domestic debut, as the game swung in the home side's favour thanks to two incidents either side of half time. First, Florent Balmont was sent off after a last-man challenge on Mathieu Valbuena in first-half stoppage time. Then, Jordan Ayew headed in a Valbuena cross less than a minute after the restart to score the game's only goal. The home side also needed goalkeeper Steve Mandanda to be in fine form as they secured a confidence-boosting win ahead of Wednesday's rearranged clash at home to Olympique Lyonnais.
Garde not worried
OL had come into the weekend on top of the table but they slipped back to fourth after enduring a miserable trip to Toulouse. Lyon's record at Le Stadium in recent years has been dreadful, and they hadn't won, or scored, in this fixture since November 2005. And they will have to wait a little longer to put that statistic right after going down to a 3-0 defeat. Wissam Ben Yedder netted twice for the home side to take his tally for the season to nine, before Etienne Capoue added a third late on.
"It is our first away defeat of the season in the league, so the situation is not a worrying one, far from it," tempered Lyon coach Rémi Garde, who must now rouse his troops for that trip to the Vélodrome.
Les Verts go from strength to strength
Lyon's Rhône rivals Saint-Etienne climbed into the top three for the first time this season after beating Valenciennes 1-0 on Friday thanks to a second-half strike from substitute Romain Hamouma. Les Verts are now unbeaten in nine Ligue 1 games, and 11 matches in all competitions, but coach Christophe Galtier knows that some tough tests lie ahead.
"We're like a Tour de France sprinter that's going well and winning stages," he said. "We'll see how we cope with the mountains."
It was a bad weekend for Girondins de Bordeaux, who lost 1-0 at Montpellier Hérault SC as Rémy Cabella scored the only goal of the game for the champions. Meanwhile, Stade Rennais FC were denied a fourth successive victory as they lost 1-0 at home to Evian TG FC.
At the bottom, AS Nancy Lorraine are now eight points from safety after a 1-1 draw with AC Ajaccio. Djamel Bakar's superb early opener at the Stade Marcel-Picot was cancelled out by a second-half Adrian Mutu penalty. FC Sochaux-Montbéliard dropped back into the relegation zone after going down 1-0 at home to OGC Nice, with Dario Cvitanich netting a penalty. There were no goals between Reims and Brest, but Bastia survived the early sending-off of Anthony Modeste to beat FC Lorient 2-1 in Corsica.