Monday, 8 October 2012

Marseille 2-2 PSG, or Gignac 2-2 Zlatan

There's something very wrong about mentioning Andre-Pierre Gignac in the same breath as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic; It's akin to compiling a list of the world's greatest rockbands and naming S Club Seven alongside The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Clash.

But S Club, I mean Gignac, joined the much-vaunted trio by netting twice last night as Paris Saint-Germain fought out at 2-2 draw with Marseille at the Stade Velodrome.

It was a particularly unimpressive display from PSG, which brought to mind our lifeless, sleep-walking performance in this fixture last season, which saw OM triumph 3-0. What's changed? Well quite simply we have better players; Zlatan produced two moments of absolute quality to put us in front against the run of play, and at the back Thiago Silva and Alex did a reasonable job of keeping the home side at arm's length.

Apart from this, the same old problem which has dogged PSG for the last year remains, namely that when we're playing badly there doesn't seem to be any connection between the different departments of the team. Verratti and Pastore both carry out an important roles in this respect; they are the ones we rely to link things up, but neither was really at the races last night, and as a result we struggled to retain the ball or get any tempo into our play.

Marseille on the other hand looked really fired up for the match, and when the league leaders hit the front in the 18th minute. Ayew's ball found Gignac in the right channel, and he bamboozled Christophe Jallet before firing in a low shot which went through the PSG skipper's legs and low past the unsighted Salvatore Sirigu. I spend a lot of time mocking Gignac, but fair play to him, that was a decent goal. 1-0.

Back came PSG, and we were level in four minutes thanks to Ibra. Maxwell swung in a corner from the left, and Zlatan got ahead of Nicolas Nkolou to flick in an awesome volley with the outside of his big left boot. Taekwondo-tastic, 1-1.

Two minutes later the game was turned on it's head. PSG won a free kick a good 30 yards from goal, and up stepped Ibrahimovic to curl a shot over the wall and low into the corner. Steeve Mandanda in the OM goal might feel he should've done a bit better, but it was a pinpoint from Zlatan, 1-2.

Alas, Marseille restored parity seven minutes later as the game continued to swing from end-to-end. It was another left-wing corner which produced their second, with Gignac finding space to nod past Sirigu and into the bottom corner, 2-2.

Pastore then missed a great chance to put us back in front, guiding the ball wide of the post from Jeremy Menez's cut-back. El Flaco must've known then that his number was up, and indeed he was replaced at half-time by Kevin Gameiro, with Jezza dropping into a deeper role behind the strikers.

Gameiro almost made an immediate impact, getting in behind the defence onto Menez's through ball but flashing a shot into the side-netting. Ibrahimovic volleyed a half-chance over the bar, but other than that there was very little in the way of goal-mouth action as the second half petered out to an anti-climatic finish.

It didn't help that PSG ended the game with six defenders on the pitch, Jallet and Maxwell taking wide midfield positions to protect substitutes Gregory van der Wiel and Sylvain Armand. You can't blame Ancelotti for being happy with a draw, and indeed I'd have taken a point if offered before the match. But we need to be careful that the malaise which affected us at the start of the season doesn't creep back into our play - perhaps the international break has come at just the right time in that respect.

Man of the Match: Zlatan Ibrahimovic - Two world class goals from the big man.


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