Marseille 1 Paris Saint-Germain 2: Di Maria settles Le Classique for unconvincing leaders
Angel Di Maria’s second-half strike handed Paris Saint-Germain a ninth successive Le Classique victory as Marseille were beaten 2-1 in Ligue 1.
Di Maria scored his ninth league goal of the campaign with 19 minutes remaining of the clash at Stade Velodrome to break home fans’ hearts, after their side had dominated for most of a lively and free-flowing contest.
Marseille had not beaten their guests from the capital in any of the last 10 meetings between the teams and another disappointing night seemed inevitable when Zlatan Ibrahimovic gave the visitors an early lead with his 21st league goal of the campaign.
However, an uncertain first 15 minutes gave way to a fluid, dynamic display from the hosts. Spearheaded by Georges-Kevin N’Koudou and Lassana Diarra in central midfield, Marseille exposed PSG’s casual approach to keeping possession and levelled through Remy Cabella midway through the opening period.
The visitors had not suffered a league defeat since March last year but, had it not been for a goal-line clearance by Maxwell, Laurent Blanc’s men would have fallen behind at the end of the first half.
As it was, Le Classique bragging rights went to the away team, leaving PSG 24 points clear of Monaco at the top of the table and Marseille still searching for a first league win at home since September 13.
Ibrahimovic took less than two minutes to put the runaway leaders in front. Maxwell got in behind the Marseille defence down the left and produced an inch-perfect cross, giving the Sweden striker a simple tap-in at the back post.
Di Maria should have added a second for PSG in the 10th minute but shot agonisingly wide after being played in by Blaise Matuidi, while it took 16 minutes for Marseille to manage an effort on target, as Cabella fired at Kevin Trapp from 20 yards.
Brice Dja Djedje’s fizzing drive forced Trapp to push the ball over for a corner four minutes later and Marseille, who went into the game protecting an 11-match unbeaten record, showed signs of recovery and found an equaliser in the 25th minute.
Cabella collected the ball just inside the PSG half, beat Thiago Motta and darted to the edge of the box before firing beyond Trapp, low to the keeper’s right.
The hosts dominated for much of the rest of the half, making a mockery of the 32-point gap between the teams prior to kick-off, and they would have had the lead five minutes before the break but for Maxwell’s goal-line clearance from Michy Batshuayi.
Marseille began the second period in the same way they finished the first, winning possession in midfield and threatening PSG with every attack. N’Koudou tested Trapp from 25 yards and it seemed inevitable that the home team would score the game’s third goal.
However, it was PSG who struck next. Ibrahimovic collected possession in the Marseille box and pulled the ball back for Di Maria, who shimmied away from his marker and found the bottom right-hand corner.
It was a cruel blow for the hosts, who could not fashion a route back into the contest, with N’Koudou and Romain Alessandrini firing off-target in the dying stages.