The PSG Report: Paris splits the points in an underwhelming “Le Classique” 

PSG’s Lionel Messi, right, runs with the ball during the French League One soccer match between Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain in Marseille, France, Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021. AP Photo/Daniel Cole.

10-men Paris Saint-Germain was able to escape the Stade Velodrome with a point on Sunday, Oct. 24 — a result that was not deserved after the poor performance of those in navy blue.  

Mauricio Pochettino lined up with Keylor Navas in goal, and the typical backline of Nuno Mendes, Presnel Kimpembe, Marquinhos and Achraf Hakimi. The midfield pivot was made up of Marco Verratti and Danilo Periera, while the front four in attack consisted of Angel Di Maria, Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr. and Kylian Mbappe.  

From the onset, Paris fans across the globe knew this would not be an easy matchup — the Velodrome is always a war zone, but especially on derby day. The Olympique Marseille faithful sing the team’s praises from the first whistle to the last, and make their disdain for their rivals from the French capital very much known. Jorge Sampaoli’s men would most certainly feed off the crowd’s energy and look to get a result against the Parisian club which has dominated the rivalry over the past decade.  

It would be the hosts who unsurprisingly came out hot in the opening minutes of the contest. They created a multitude of opportunities from set pieces and through long balls, but were unable to find the finishing touch on each occasion. Paris eventually responded, as the front four combined to find a way past a fiery Marseille side. Just like their bitter rivals, however, Pochettino’s men also failed to find that coveted finishing touch as their efforts went in vain.  

Two of PSG’s front four would combine to find what they thought was the opener. Di Maria played a lob pass to Neymar, who dribbled into Marseille’s box and played a low driven cross to the far post. In an attempt to clear the ball from the box, left back Luan Peres hit it into his own net to give Paris the 1-0 advantage.  

It would be a momentary advantage, however, as a Video Assistant Referee check ruled that Neymar was offside in the build-up to the goal, which meant the Paris breakthrough would be chalked off.  

PSG’s Neymar races clear of Marseille’s Valentin Rongier during the French League One soccer match between Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain in Marseille, France, Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021. AP Photo/Daniel Cole

A similar situation occurred for Marseille a couple of minutes after Paris’ disallowed goal. Boubacar Kamara played a through ball to Pol Lirola, who proceeded to take a touch and play a low driven cross into the box to Arkadiusz Milik, who took a touch and smashed it past Navas to give “Les Olympiens” the lead.  

This time, VAR would come in and spoil the party for the hosts, as it was found that Lirola was in an offside position when he received the through ball from Kamara. The score remained 0-0.  

The front four for Paris really started to connect at the half’s midway point. Di Maria, Neymar, Messi and Mbappe combined tirelessly in the final third and began to put the pressure on Marseille. The hosts responded well to the pressure, as they stood firm and quickly transitioned into attack at every opportunity they got.  

The early stages of the second half brought more of the same, as Paris constantly found itself in Marseille’s final third, with the front four continuing to search for a way to break the lines and find the opener. PSG’s aggressive attacking nature would leave them exploited in defense, however — something which Marseille again took advantage of in the counterattack.  

A Nuno Mendes giveaway in Marseille’s final third saw this Marseille counterattack work to perfection. Dimitri Payet played a ball to Cengiz Under, who was through on goal. Hakimi was the last defender, and in his attempt to stop the clear goal scoring opportunity, he tripped the Turkish winger. At first, the referee did not call the foul, but after a VAR check, he confirmed that Hakimi was in fact the last man back, and received a red card as a result.  

Marseille’s man advantage meant they had more freedom to attack, as Paris had no choice but to play more defensively with 10 men.  

Marseille’s William Saliba, right, challenges PSG’s Kylian Mbappe during the French League One soccer match between Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain in Marseille, France, Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021. AP Photo/Daniel Cole

Sampaoli’s men began to flow freely in attack, and had two great chances to take the lead in the 65th and 77th minute, respectively. In the 65th minute, Payet played a cross into the box which was connected on by an unmarked Valentin Rongier, whose attempt went just wide of Navas’ far post. Then, in the 77th minute, Lirola played a cross to the far post to an unmarked Konrad De La Fuente. The American attempted to catch it first time off the volley, but missed it to waste another golden opportunity for Marseille.  

Paris stayed on the backfoot for the remainder of the contest, but were able to fend off the Marseille attack for the final ten minutes of the contest to split the points.  

PSG remained in first place in the Ligue 1 table with 28 points, seven points clear of RC Lens in second. On the other hand, Marseille fell to fourth with 18 points.  

“We wanted the three points, but with everything that happened, we take one point and it’s positive, we need to refocus and we will continue to work,” Pochettino said in the post-match press conference via PSG’s official website.  

“We have shown character and personality, and that is important. Today, the team showed solidarity, and our organization was good,” Pochettino added.  

Navas weighed in on the changes that occurred throughout the course of the match. 

“In the first half, we were the team with the possession of the ball, and the team with the best chance of scoring,” he said via PSG’s official website. “And in the second half, the expulsion meant that we had to defend a little more. One point, [we’ll] take, it’s not what we wanted, but [we’ll] take it and it’s positive.” 

Paris will now look to put this result behind them and turn their focus to reigning French champion Lille, which they host at the Parc des Princes on Friday, Oct. 29 at 3 p.m. 

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