Marseille had picked up the majority of their points on the road this season, and had won their last four Ligue 1 Uber Eats games – their last eight in all competitions after reaching the UEFA Europa Conference League semi-finals on Thursday – as they headed north to take on the side that started the game 12 points clear of them at the top of the table.
PSG were aware that another Classique win – adding to the 14 they had amassed offset by just a single defeat in the duo’s previous 19 top-flight meetings – would take them 15 points clear with six matches left and – with a vastly superior goal difference – within touching distance of a record-equalling tenth Ligue 1 Uber Eats title.
OM certainly helped the hosts move towards that goal with a slow start, one that saw PSG capitalize to take the lead. Neymar has enjoyed a goal-filled 2022, and the Brazilian superstar netted his eighth league strike since the turn of the year and his 11th of the season when he lunged to meet Marco Verratti’s lofted ball on the volley and send it arcing over a stranded Pau Lopez (12 ‘).
Mbappé then pulled a wide shot when clean through – the raised offside flag only slightly dampened the surprise to see the in-form France international fail to ruffle the net (19 ‘); the same was true when Lionel Messi – his name being sung by the Parc des Princes crowd who whistled him following PSG’s UEFA Champions League exit to Real Madrid – sent a well-placed free-kick well over the crossbar (23 ‘).
The vistiors eventually snapped out of their lethargy – perhaps the legacy of their long midweek trip to Greece —and began to play the game in PSG’s half. After one Dimitri Payet corner had caused Gianluigi Donnarumma problems, another barely 60 seconds later left Italy international picking the ball out of his net after Duje Caleta-Car had scrambled it over the line with the PSG ‘keeper and his defenders having failed to deal with the delivery (31 ‘).
Neymar’s flick from the left led to Mbappé volleying wide (38 ‘) as PSG, who were unbeaten in their last 18 home games only failing to win once, tried to respond. They were then foiled by a number of offside decisions before the officials helped them go in front.
Neymar’s chip into the Marseille penalty area struck the arm of Valentin Rongier. After consulting with his VAR colleagues, referee François Letexier headed to the sidelines to take a look for himself before finally deciding to point to the penalty spot (45 ‘). Mbappé swept home the spot-kick for his 21st league strike in just 29 appearances – and his sixth goal in his last three top-flight outings – to give PSG a half-time lead (45 + 1 ‘).
After the break, both sides seemed to lose their nerve and – at times – their cool. While OM coach Jorge Sampaoli was his usual fiery self on the sidelines, the players also ensured the rivalry between the teams flared on the pitch, even if visiting fans were not officially present inside the Parc des Princes.
Mbappé’s famed poise deserted him after he had been brilliantly played through by Messi, and – seemingly caught in two minds whether to race towards goal himself or feed the unmarked Neymar in the middle – he was thwarted by Caleta-Car (73 ‘). He then found the net again following another Messi pass only for the offside flag to be raised (75 ‘).
As frustrated as PSG were to see that decision, they were equally grateful when – after intervention from VAR – Saliba’s ‘equalizer’ was ruled out for a marginal offside against the on-loan Arsenal defender, who had volleyed past Donnarumma from a Payet free- kick (85 ‘).
PSG now go to Angers on Wednesday where victory will all but ensure Mauricio Pochettino’s side will join Saint-Etienne on 10 Ligue 1 Uber Eats titles, regardless of other results. If PSG avoid defeat, and Marseille, whose goal difference is +21 to the leader’s +42, fail to at least match their arch-rival’s result when they host Nantes at the same time, PSG will be officially crowned champions.
THE PLAYER: Kylian Mbappé
The PSG number 7 netted his seventh Classique goal to draw equal with Zlatan Ibrahimovic among the capital club’s goalscorers in the encounter. He linked up positively with Neymar and Messi as the ‘MNM’ front line flourished.
THE STAT: 19
Verratti is now the player who has played the most Classics in Ligue 1 Uber Eats history – the Italy international has featured in 19 competitive matches against Marseille, moving ahead of Sylvain Armand (PSG, 2004-2015).
>> EXPLAINER: What is Le Classique?