Paris Saint-Germain defeated bitter rivals Marseille 2-1 on Sunday to extend their record unbeaten run in Ligue 1 to 34 matches as the hosts remained unable to solve their home woes.
Angel Di Maria. Pic / AFP
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored his league-leading 21st goal of the season to give PSG the lead inside two minutes at the Stade Velodrome, but Remy Cabella hauled Marseille level midway through the first half with a wonderful solo effort.
However, Angel Di Maria struck the winning goal on 71 minutes to hand PSG a 15th straight win in all competitions and keep Laurent Blanc's side a huge 24 points clear at the top of the table. "Marseille gave us a really physical battle which we expected.
We showed our solidarity to see out the victory, but we've now got to ready ourselves for the two games before Chelsea (in the Champions League). It's not going to be easy," said Blanc.
"The players, like you (journalists), are thinking about the game against Chelsea but...it's not the last game before Chelsea, there's one in three days and another in six." Marseille have now failed to win any of their last 10 home games in the league, while their streak of 11 games without defeat was also snapped after succumbing to a ninth successive 'Classique' loss. Despite the defeat Michel's side are still just five points off third-place Nice, who they visit next Sunday, in the race for the final Champions League spot.
Billed as French football's most explosive fixture, Sunday's encounter on the south coast was no different with five people arrested prior to kick-off following a run-in with police outside the ground. Blanc made six changes to the side that beat Lorient on Wednesday to set a new record for the longest sequence of games without defeat in the French top flight, recalling the likes of Di Maria, Blaise Matuidi and David Luiz. Marseille welcomed back both Michy Batshuayi and Abdelaziz Barrada from suspension, while Lassana Diarra made his return from injury in central midfield.
PSG were unbeaten in their last 10 meetings with Marseille, having won the last six in Ligue 1, and the visitors again seized the upper hand before the hosts had time to settle. Maxwell was sent galloping down the left wing after after being released by Matuidi and the Brazilian picked out Ibrahimovic at the back post as the Swede netted for the fifth game running.
France midfielder Matuidi again dissected the Marseille defence a few minutes later, although this time Di Maria dragged his shot agonisingly wide of the far post. Barrada should have levelled for the home side when Thiago Motta failed to clear Brice Dja Djedje's cross, but the Morocco midfielder lashed over as the ball dropped invitingly for him. However, the hosts did equalise on 25 minutes as Cabella gathered the ball near the halfway line, skipped past Motta and fired low beyond Kevin Trapp from outside the area, with the German unable to keep it out despite getting a strong hand to the ball.
Lucas wasted a prime chance to restore PSG's lead when he scuffed wide after a sublime Di Maria through ball, while Maxwell was forced to clear off the line after Batshuayi hooked a corner goalwards. But PSG continued their dominance of Marseille as Di Maria, set up by Ibrahimovic, swept home his ninth goal of the season 19 minutes from time to keep the capital club's winning run intact.
Steven Fletcher came on for his Marseille debut late on, while Georges-Kevin Nkoudou watched a shot flash wide as the hosts hit PSG on the break but ultimately were left still searching for a first home win since September. Earlier, Saint-Etienne registered a thumping 4-1 win at Bordeaux to move level on points with Nice, while Rennes salvaged a point late on in a 1-1 draw at Lille. On Saturday, Monaco strengthened their hold on second place with a 1-0 win over Cote d'Azur rivals Nice, while Lyon continued their mini-revival with a 3-0 victory away to Angers.