Week 27 review: Five-star PSG hammer OM as top four win
By S. Willis
PSG's 5-1 romp in Marseille surely boosted the reigning champions' confidence, but with Monaco, Nice and Lyon also victorious, the title race remains poised, with the principality club still three points clear at the top.
Paris Saint-Germain went into Sunday's clash in Marseille having won their last three matches at the Stade Vélodrome and on a run of 13 matches unbeaten in the fixture, but few would have predicted that OM owner Frank McCourt's first Classique would see his resurgent side so utterly outdone by their capital-club rivals.
From Marquinhos' early opener (6') to Blaise Matuidi's deft finish from a Marco Verratti lay-off (72'), Paris Saint-Germain played the kind of football that had seen them demolish Barcelona 4-0 and gave every indication that they are just now unleashing their full potential as the final stretch of the season approaches.
"I think the team are very good, we are enjoying a good phase at the moment," beamed PSG boss Unai Emery, whose side have won all but one of an unbeaten run of 13 matches in all competitions in 2017. "However, it is necessary to keep this level of performance up, to maintain our consistency and our desire. This game was good for our confidence. However, once this match is over it is over - we have to play again next week!"
Meanwhile for OM boss Rudi Garcia, it was far from what he had hoped for, especially with a Coupe de France round of 16 clash with Monaco looming in mid-week: "It's a huge disappointment. We just couldn't rise to the occasion. We showed the drive we needed to at the beginning, but we conceded two early goals from the kind of situations we had worked on. We knew what we needed to do to stop them, and we failed to do that."
Monaco stay on track
OM will certainly need to do better as they face Monaco on Wednesday night, especially as Leonardo Jardim's side bounced back from their spectacular 5-3 Champions League reverse against Manchester City - their only defeat in all competitions in 2017 - with a 2-1 victory away to Guingamp, which ensured them of ending the weekend still in top spot.
"I think the team played a great game. We dominated well, we read our opponents' strengths well: direct play, transitions. We defended high, and that helped us a lot," said Jardim, for whom Poland stopper Kamil Glik broke the deadlock (24') before Fabinho clinched the result from the spot (86', pen.). "It was very important after the Champions League match to stay focused with a match like that."
Le Bihan bursts back onto the scene
The title race's third player, OGC Nice, also kept their iron in the fire. With star striker Mario Balotelli suspended and injured 11-goal top scorer Alassane Pléa out for the rest of the season, substitute Mickaël Le Bihan stepped into the breach with a brace to clinch a come-from-behind 2-1 win over a Montpellier side who had won three of their last four under new boss Jean-Louis Gasset.
"Le Bihan - what a remarkable story," said OGC Nice boss Lucien Favre of the 26-year-old who was made his return to action off the bench on the hour-mark after 17 months out with a foot injury. "He told me that he was ready and came on for the final 30 minutes. Congratulations to him."
Memphis at the double as Lyon roar
With the top three all winning to, fourth-placed Lyon needed to follow suit to stay within 13 points and keep their slim hopes of a podium finish alive, and Bruno Genesio's men duly obliged, handing promoted Metz a 5-0 hammering at the Parc OL to move four points clear of their nearest rivals.
"Is this our best run of form? We also had a good phase at the end of last year, but it is true that we're scoring and creating a lot just now," said Genesio, for whom newly signed Dutch international Memphis Depay starred with a brace. "Memphis had been threatening to have a game like that. When you don't pay for a long time it can be difficult to regain your rhythm, but he is fit again and is showing all his qualities as an attacking player."
Sainté slump continues, Bordeaux capitalise
Meanwhile OL's arch-rivals Saint-Etienne continued to founder, losing their fourth in a row in all competitions, 1-0 at home to Caen, a result that allowed Bordeaux to leapfrog them into fifth place on the back of a see-sawing 3-2 win away to a Lille side who ended the match with just nine men. Super-sub Adam Ounas struck twice to leave Les Girondins three points clear of European rivals ASSE and OM.
Angers made it three wins in a row for just the second time this season, prevailing 3-0 over Bastia to climb to 11th, while eight-placed Rennes maintained their place in the top half of the table as Giovanni Sio's lone strike secure a 1-0 Brittany derby win over bottom club Lorient.
FC Nantes saw Colombian midfielder Felipe Pardo score a spectacular lob to clinch a 3-1 win over Dijon while, after holding Paris Saint-Germain to a 0-0 draw in Week 26, Toulouse were at it again, ensuring an identical stalemate away to Nancy on Saturday evening and slipping to ninth.