By Robin Bairner, Goal.com
Paris Saint-Germain had to withstand a barrage from rival Olympique de Marseille, but the club claimed a 2-0 victory over its great rival to earn the spoils in Ligue 1’s Classique and to once again move three points clear at the summit of Le Championnat.
On the evening on which David Beckham came off the bench to play his first 15 minutes as a PSG player, it was an own goal from Nicolas Nkoulou that was vital in differentiating the sides, as the center back was unfortunate to deflect a shot from Lucas into his own goal. A fluke from Zlatan Ibrahimovic late on then secured the points.
This moment capped a whirlwind start from Carlo Ancelotti’s men in a match that would be played with an unrelenting tempo throughout. With little over a minute played, Ibrahimovic combined with the excellent Ezequiel Lavezzi for the ex-Napoli man to break the offside trap and send a firm first-time effort against the frame of Steve Mandanda’s goal.
Having been overwhelmed initially, Marseille would go on to control much of the rest of the evening as PSG rather lost its way and relied on goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu to keep the opponents out.
With half an hour played, Joey Barton could not quite gain enough purchase on his header to trouble the Italian, and within 60 seconds Foued Kadir had nutmegged Maxwell and unleashed a fierce shot that stretched the ex-Palermo star.
Before the interval, Sirigu would be further tested. A Mathieu Valbuena free kick swerved wickedly due to a slight deflection, but the goalkeeper was firmly behind it, and moments later a similar save denied Andre-Pierre Gignac.
Marseille’s momentum was not dampened by the interval. Within 60 seconds of the restart Valbuena had released Gignac down the left, but Sirigu was again to the fore albeit he was not given credit for his save as a goal kick was awarded. The former Toulouse striker showed he has an eye for the spectacular too, but his difficult overhead was touched over.
On the hour mark PSG managed brief respite. Ibrahimovic had an effort direct from a free kick that would ultimately go down as the team's first shot on target, and a minute later he shot wide after good work from Lucas Moura.
Although the capital side broke with purpose on many occasions, its final ball was regularly lacking, which invited pressure from Marseille.
Though further dangerous shots came from Mathieu Valbuena, who left Sirigu motionless with a long-range drive that flirted with the post, and Rod Fanni, who thumping effort needed punched away, Elie Baup’s side could not find a breakthrough.
Indeed, Ibrahimovic’s late goal, when a Jeremy Menez cross was deflected in off his knee, told the story of OM’s night,
It was something of a role reversal for OM, which has been known for its ability to win scrappy matches, but this defeat leaves the title race to become a two-horse race between Lyon and PSG, which took the upper hand once more by re-establishing its three-point advantage in extremely trying circumstances.
If anything, this match was a reminder that the race for the French crown is by no means a foregone conclusion.
Follow GOAL.COM on Twitter.