If Paris Saint-Germain goes to be challenged in Ligue 1 in its first season as a real superteam, there’s a sure kind of opponent, and a sure kind of sport, that may maintain it inside vary of the pack. It will take dedication and defensive solidity. It will take strategic fouling and opportunistic attacking. It will take a rabid ambiance, some fluky occurrences, and a bit little bit of luck.
All of these items fell into place Sunday night time on the Stade Velodrome in Marseille. And nonetheless, by means of all of it, PSG stays unbeaten. Barely.
After Neymar was despatched off for 2 yellow playing cards provoked by pure frustration, Edinson Cavani stepped as much as a stoppage-time free kick that in any other case would have been Neymar’s. The Uruguayan, having additionally drew the foul, banged in an equalizer off the crossbar to steal a 2-2 draw.
Neymar had accomplished his half earlier within the match. He was not constantly efficient all through the 90 minutes, however snuck a bobbling left-footed shot contained in the far put up to degree the rating at 1-1 within the Thirty third-minute.
All through the match, although, and particularly late on, his shins had been on the receiving finish of persistent hacks, kicks and nibbles. After Marseille re-took the lead by means of Florian Thauvin within the 78th minute, the fouls multiplied, and Neymar’s frustration boiled.
Within the eighty fifth minute, it lastly started to get the higher of him. He was proven two yellow playing cards in a three-minute span. The primary was merited. The Brazilian winger unnecessarily went right into a problem after the play.
His second yellow, although, was absurd. Not essentially incorrectly given. However positively absurd.
He was fouled by two gamers directly, then taken down by a second problem from a 3rd participant after the whistle had gone. He popped up and received within the face of Lucas Ocampos, the Marseille participant who had tripped him. However he by no means lashed out, nor even touched Ocampos with any of his extremities. Ocampos blatantly flopped. The referee brandished yellows to each:
Neymar’s response, although, was avoidable. He had been wound up over a span of two hours. The derby was heated from the time Marseille followers started to fill the Velodrome. One finish of the pitch that Neymar walked onto a couple of minutes earlier than kickoff was enveloped by smoke.
The followers introduced flares. They introduced their indefatigable voices. They usually used each. Additionally they, sadly, used trash and different particles. They hurled it at Neymar each time he waltzed to the nook flag to line up a set piece. Earlier than one second-half nook might be taken, the sport was delayed for round a minute so safety might attempt to calm the scenario. Riot police fashioned a wall round Neymar so he might lastly put the ball again into play.
The ambiance was absolutely a part of the agitation. However so was Marseille’s efficiency. And never simply the violent components of it. The hosts performed some nice soccer within the first half, with PSG resigned to taking part in on the counter. They received a simply reward when Luis Gustavo put all his would possibly behind a 30-yard bullet:
Gustavo oozed each toughness and sophistication within the first half. He bossed the midfield battle with Adrien Rabiot, Thiago Motta and Marco Verratti. Adil Rami and Hiroki Sakai additionally largely held Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in verify on PSG’s left.
The second-half was pretty even, each on the scoreboard and on the sphere. However Thauvin knifed in entrance of Thiago Silva within the 78th minute to provide Marseille a shock lead:
However, a person down, Cavani cleverly drew contact on the left aspect of the field. With Neymar off the pitch, there was no competitors for dead-ball duties. Cavani saved PSG unbeaten.
The Parisians have now received eight, drawn two and misplaced none within the league. They’re 4 factors up on Monaco. Sunday’s two dropped factors had been their first with Neymar within the beginning lineup. Nevertheless it’s going to take many extra performances like this to maintain Ligue 1 shut. And it’s going to take losses as an alternative of attracts to maintain PSG from the title.
– – – – – –
Henry Bushnell covers soccer – the U.S. nationwide groups, the Premier League, and far, way more – for FC Yahoo and Yahoo Sports activities. Have a tip? Query? Remark? E mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or comply with him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.