Week 29 review: PSG continue Classique run
By S. Willis
PSG's 3-1 Classique win over OM stretched their unbeaten run in the fixture to 19 while sending them 20 points clear atop the standings; Lyon edged a five-goal thriller vs Montpellier 3-2 to go within four points of second-placed LOSC.
Marseille haven't emerged victorious from a clash with arch-rivals PSG since back in 2011, and although they turned in a strong first-half performance at the Parc des Princes on Sunday night, it wasn't enough to prevent the sublime skills of Angel Di Maria from carving out a 3-1 win - a 16th victory in an unbeaten run of 19 - for the capital club.
Tuchel: 'Incredible skill'
The Argentine wizard set up up Ligue 1 Conforama top scorer Kylian Mbappé for his 26th of the season just before the break and then scored two breathtaking goals himself - one with a curled finish from a tight angle and the other his fourth direct free-kick of the season from a full 30 metres out - to cancel out Valère Germain's leveller early in the second term.
"It was a great win. After Manchester United [who eliminated PSG form the UEFA Champions League], it has been tough, but we have to accept what happened. The team reacted fantastically tonight. It was a deserved win," said PSG boss Thomas Tuchel, who has had to make do without star forwards Neymar and Edinson Cavani for several weeks now, before turning his attention to Man of the Match Angel Di Maria. "He is capable of incredible skill, like for the first goal from Kylian Mbappé and then his brace. He works a lot at training. There's no secret potion in sport. Hard work pays off."
Garcia: 'Nothing to be ashamed of'
Tuchel's opposite number Rudi Garcia, whose side had won five matches in an unbeaten run of six heading into the match, felt that captain Steve Mandanda's send-off for handling the ball outside the area was the turning point in a promising performance.
"We have nothing to be ashamed of in this defeat. Up until Steve [Mandanda]'s send-off we were playing a coherent match," explained the OM boss, for whom star striker Mario Balotelli, under an illness cloud heading into the match, barely made an impression in the match. "We didn't let PSG impose their game and we didn't concede chances. But we didn't have enough chances in the second half, and that's where my regrets lie."
Genetic victory for ASM
The win saw the capital club extend their lead atop the Ligue 1 Conforama standings to 20 points, thanks also to resurgent Monaco's claiming a shock 1-0 away to second-placed LOSC. Brazilian winter signing Vinicius got the only goal of the game - his first in Ligue 1 Conforama - in the 90th minute, a fact coach Leonardo Jardim ascribed to his side's DNA.
"A victory like this one, against the second-best team in the league, is very important. I congratulate the players on picking up points in seven successive games," said the Portuguese, whose once-imperilled side are now eight points clear of the relegation play-off spot. "A draw would have been a good result, but we kept three forwards right to the end because it's in our DNA to play to win, to always try to get a victory. It's an important win, but we're still in a difficult situation."
Meanwhile LOSC boss Christophe Galtier, whose side hadn't tasted defeat in the league since Week 19 - an unbeaten run of nine matches - felt his side deserved better.
"Monaco didn't steal their win, but I think we deserved to at least score a goal. But we didn't manage to do that," he explained after being careful to point out that it has been the press, not the club, talking a of a Champions League finish. "The difference is that Monaco got shots on target, we didn't, and even when we were in front of goal, we shot over the bar. We have to look again at our finishing and avoid allowing our opponents to create so many chances."
OL, Sainté fire
The Friday-night result paved the way for third-placed Lyon, sent crashing out of the UEFA Champions League by Lionel Messi in mid-week, to close the gap to four points as they trumped Montpellier 3-2 in a thrilling encounter with Houssem Aouar heading home the eventual winner.
The loss saw Michel Der Zakarian's men lose ground in the race for the European places, with Saint-Etienne going fifth on the back of a 5-0 away hammering of Caen and Reims stretching their unbeaten run to 13 Ligue 1 Conforama outings with a 1-0 beating of ten-man Nantes thanks to top scorer Rémi Oudin's ninth of the season.
Savanier saves the day
Nîmes and Coupe de la Ligue BKT finalists Strasbourg remain mid-table after cancelling each other out 2-2 in a thriller on the south coast on Saturday, with a Téji Savanier's last-gasp penalty earning Les Crocodiles a point, while Nice managed to stay in the top half of the table by securing a draw at home to Toulouse on Friday.
Bordeaux, under new coach Paulo Sousa, took the lead against Rennes thanks to top soccer François Kamano's first strike since Week 16, but the Brittany side, knocked out of the Europa League by Arsenal in mid-week, bounced back to clinch a 1-1 draw at the MATMUT Atlantique thanks to the in-form Mbaye Niang.
EA Guingamp managed to pry themselves off the foot of the table for the first time since Week 3 as Ludovic Blas' late penalty clinched a 1-0 win in the relegation six-pointer at home to Dijon. The result leaves the Brittany club in 18th - in line for the relegation play-off - a week out from their Coupe de la Ligue BKT final vs Strasbourg, while Dijon slip to 19th and Caen prop up the table in 20th.
Angers and Amiens rounded out the weekend's action with a 0-0 draw at the Stade Raymond Kopa on Saturday.