PSG beats bitter rival Marseille 3-2 to reclaim top spot
PARIS (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain moved back above Lyon to the top in a hard-fought French title race after twice coming back from a goal down to win 3-2 away to bitter rival Marseille in a frenzied match on Sunday.
However, the win came at a high price as David Luiz and Thiago Motta went off injured with PSG facing a hectic schedule chasing trophies on four fronts.
Luiz limped off after appearing to pull a hamstring and Motta trudged off right before the end with a similar-looking injury. PSG recently lost central midfielder Yohan Cabaye to a muscle injury, while Brazil winger Lucas is still trying to regain full fitness.
“If I have to take something away from the game it’s the victory, but we paid dearly with two players injured,” PSG coach Laurent Blanc said. “In the race for the title, nothing is decided but it was an important win.”
PSG has a French Cup semifinal against Saint-Etienne on Wednesday, followed by the League Cup final against Bastia on Saturday and the first leg of its Champions League quarterfinal against Barcelona four days later.
Marseille’s top scorer Andre-Pierre Gignac struck twice in the first half, either side of France midfielder Blaise Matuidi’s equalizer, to put Marseille in charge. But PSG profited from poor defending to score twice in quick succession at the start of the second half.
Brazilian defender Marquinhos equalized and Marseille defender Jeremy Morel scored an own goal moments later.
“It’s a fair result. It was a match of opposing styles and PSG came out on top,” Marseille coach Marcelo Bielsa said. “It was nothing to do with luck or anything else, that’s why we have no excuses.”
Tensions mounted when some Marseille fans threw projectiles at the PSG bus as it pulled into the Stade Velodrome stadium, with one window slightly cracked.
PSG is one point above Lyon and five ahead of third-place Marseille with seven games remaining.
“The key to the game was that we were never comfortable,” Bielsa added. “I knew that PSG would dominate play with its passing and our tactics didn’t work.”
With Zlatan Ibrahimovic largely kept quiet, Gignac shone as he took his season’s tally to 18 league goals. But the absence of Cameroon center half Nicolas N’koulou was keenly felt, and Marseille’s defense offered goalkeeper Steve Mandanda scant protection.
“You can’t afford lapses in matches like these,” Marseille midfielder Dimitri Payet said.
In front of a record 65,000 crowd, tensions were so high that kickoff had to be retaken after Gignac charged straight into Motta, and Ghana winger Andre Ayew was lucky to escape a yellow card early on after a thudding challenge on midfielder Marco Verratti.
PSG started well and, after Ayew lost the ball carelessly in the 12th minute, Javier Pastore’s effort went just wide. With 20 minutes played, Pastore then picked out striker Edinson Cavani in the penalty area but he fluffed his half-volley.
Gignac, who is set to leave next season, gave Marseille the lead against the run of play in the 30th minute when he started and finished a move.
Collecting the ball on the left, he picked out Payet on the right with a cross-field pass before meeting Payet’s cross at the back post and out-jumping Marquinhos before planting a powerful header past goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu.
PSG’s chances took a further blow when Luiz limped off in the 34th minute.
But a minute later, PSG equalized when Matuidi shrugged off a challenge from defender Brice Djadjedje and curled a shot in off the post just past goalkeeper Steve Mandanda’s outstretched hand.
“We were up against a very good Marseille team tonight,” Matuidi said. “It’s important to come and win here and reclaim first place. But we lost two players and that is sad.”
Marseille regained the lead in the 43rd when Verratti’s penchant for trying to dribble out of trouble — literally from anywhere — backfired as he gave the ball away.
Midfielder Alaixys Romao put Gignac through, and he beat Sirigu with a confident finish, and Gignac almost completed his hat trick in the 45th when he met Payet’s near-post cross with a bullet header that Sirigu brilliantly keep out.
“The players spoke to each other (at halftime),” Blanc said. “The conversations were brief but to the point.”
Whatever was said worked, as PSG equalized when Marseille failed to properly clear Ibrahimovic’s free kick and Marquinhos stabbed the ball home in the 49th.
Two miunutes later, Matuidi won the ball and released Pastore, whose cross from the left was meant for Ibrahimovic. Instead, Morel put the ball past his own ’keeper.
Earlier, winger Nicolas Maurice-Belay’s first goal since August proved timely one it helped Bordeaux beat Lens 2-1 and keep its Europa League hopes alive.
Meanwhile, Caen won 2-1 win at Nantes.