Paris Saint-Germain rebuked Marseille in Zlatan Ibrahimović’s return

Paris Saint-Germain claimed a much-needed 2-0 win over rivals Olympique Marseille in the French season’s Classique. The two-time defending Ligue 1 champs went into the game in third place (Lyon played and won earlier in the day), four points behind surprise leaders, Marseille. OM has been riding a wave of attack-minded success under new manager Marcelo Bielsa, and was eager to maintain it.

Sure, Le Classique was important. Three points would be huge for either side, and the opposing styles promised the sort of open game we all love to watch. But there was something else hovering over the game. An electric force on the sidelines. Lurking. Waiting. Wearing “sweaggings.” Ready to strike.

The game began with Marseille looking like the better team, proving perhaps that its place atop the league was no accident. That was until a fateful and tensely romantic clash of No. 9’s. It was here that the power shifted.

They’ll say they were fighting for a ball, but this encounter was deeper than that. Edinson Cavani was the clear aggressor. Maybe he came on too strong. Maybe Andre-Pierre Gignac was hesitant because they came from rival families clubs.

Maybe this wasn’t the tender moment it appeared to be. It’s possible that Cavani is a master of the Dark Arts and got this close to stealing Gignac’s life force through his breath. Cavani has been around a long while. Sometimes desperate measures must be taken.

Now in control on all levels, PSG was able to open the scoring. Lucas put to bed a lovely four pass combination that developed from the back with Thiago Silva.

Then the skies went dark. Birds fled central Paris by the thousands. A single clap of thunder pierced the air. It happened. He was back.

After nearly two months away with injury, Zlatan Ibrahimović had returned. Marseille had to know its night was over, and with it, hopes of extending its lead in the standings. A newly rejuvenated Cavani would shut the door on 10-man Marseille for good in the 85th minute.

Paris Saint-Germain have had a slow start to the season by its new oil-rich standards, largely due to six draws in the prior 12 matches and inconsistent scoring with Ibrahimovic out of the lineup. A big win like this and Zlatan’s return could see a change of course.

Marseille was hoping to make a statement today: show the world that, under Bielsa, it was up to any challenge Ligue 1 could offer. In some ways, it did just that, but it still appears to be a notch or two down from a fully-functional PSG. Even a draw would have been huge. Its lead now shrinks to one point.

Aside from anything that actually mattered, the moment of the game was Laurent Blanc playing the role of the over-eager old dude in the park, waiting to get into the next game. Can’t be sure what he was thinking in this moment, but it was beautiful. Still got it, Laurent!


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