PSG supremacy continues with win over Olympique de Marseille

In one of the fiercest rivalries in Europe, the competitive balance in Le Classique has been one-sided since Paris Saint-Germain F.C. was acquired by Qatar Sports Investment.

When Orange Vélodrome was renovated before the summer of 2016, Olympique de Marseille thought that the stadium, aside from the matches in the UEFA European Championship, was built for this sort of occasion.

Marseille failed to register a point in each of the five matches at the Vélodrome after its expansion project started.

On Sunday, Oct. 28, with the financial gap between the two teams continuing to widen, there was no difference after the final whistle.

The game was tied, at least on the scoreline, when PSG introduced Kylian Mbappé in place of Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. The stadium greeted him with deafening jeers.

What followed, though, was a deafening silence.

As Marseille tried tolaunch an attack in the midfield, Julian Draxler intercepted Morgan Sanson, whose possession was delivered to Ángel Di María. The Argentine released Mbappé with a through-ball.

The 19-year-old World Cup winner only needed his first three touches after the substitution to dash past another 19-year-old French youth international, Boubacar Kamara, and shot the ball past Steve Mandanda, who has already suffered 15 defeats against PSG.

Mandanda would have to pick up the ball from the net again at the dying minutes in the additional time when Marseille was trying to equalize. The transition from PSG was so quick, so slick, that Marseille just looked flustered. In the end, Draxler tapped in a mishit from Neymar.

PSG won its 11th match after Sunday night and tied the record of Tottenham Hotspur in 1960-61 for the best start in a topflight league in Europe.

Near the end of the game, Mandanda, after saving a shot from Thomas Meunier, instead of reorganizing the defense or elevating the morale, he seemed to look down and hold a facial expression of helplessness and frustration.

That is not unreasonable because after Marseille last won the Ligue 1 title, the team has always seemed to be on a path of soul-searching to nowhere even though it reached the UEFA Europa League final last season, losing to Atlético Madrid. That was the closest the club has been to a Champions League spot.

Élie Baup led the Southern French club to the Champions League after missing out in the 2012-2013 season but did not even secure a point in its group, andMarseille has been missing out ever since.

Frank McCourt, who now owns Marseille, may have improved the financial state of the team and instilled a more stable management, but it still does not look secured in terms of qualifying for the premier club competition.

He made some investments after acquiring the club, but some of the most reliable players had either played for the club before or already been on the team beforehand.

Florian Thauvin is the shining star of the team, having won the World Cup with France in the summer. Dimitri Payet, who missed out on the World Cup, is on the same level.

Adil Rami may be on the squad, but he was treated more like the mascot of the team — his mustache was touched by his teammates before the game, similar to the ritual of kissing Fabien Barthez’s bald head in the 1998 World Cup-winning team — rather than a true contributor to the defense.

One of the main investments McCourt made was Kevin Strootman, previously a player of A.S. Roma.

A towering midfield presence, but his best may have passed since he has not been the same after an injury in the midst of his breakout season in Rome.

This acquisition is more of the same of Rami, Kostas Mitroglou and Valère Germain, who won the league with AS Monaco FC and Mbappé in 2017.

Marseille bought those players after the most valuable periods of their careers.

The fact that PSG has bought Mbappé and wrested Neymar from Barcelona, one of the most powerful clubs in the world, showed the difference in clout and stature between Les Parisien and the rest of the league.

L’Équipe headlined “Mbappé Punit l’OM,” which translates to “Mbappé punished l’OM”. This is definitely not the first time that the teenager has been on the front page of the French sports daily.

The sky is the limit for the Paris native. His form is as good as the best two players on the planet — Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo — having scored 10 goals already this season and topping the scorers’ chart in the top-5 leagues.

Before he came on, though, Paris had failed to score. That was the first time that PSG could not score in the first 60 minutes of the game this season.

This underlines the reliance on Mbappé, but this win could galvanize Thomas Tuchel’s team to recapture its form before the midweek debacle against S.S.C.

Napoli, which probably deserved to win more than PSG to draw, when it actually worked hard to match the German’s tactical intensity in Ligue 1.

Marseille is on a 17-game winless run against its mighty rival in the north and seemed to only be able to reclaim its status when, one day, it can defeat PSG.

For now, though, the biggest interruption Marseille can offer to PSG only seems to be the ones happen in the game when its fans shamefully threw bottles and coins at Neymar.

November 5, 2018

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Wen Xi Chen

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