Angel Di Maria wrote his name into the folklore of Le Classique as his outstanding individual performance earned Paris Saint-Germain a 3-1 Ligue 1 win over Marseille.
The visit of PSG’s arch rivals to the Parc des Princes was set against a backdrop of protest from the club’s ultras, who did not show up until 15 minutes into Sunday’s clash in protest at their Champions League exit to Manchester United.
With the league title essentially wrapped up, France’s standout fixture arguably carried little meaning but Di Maria produced a performance that will live long in the memory.
After Kylian Mbappe, who later missed a last-gasp penalty, and Valere Germain traded goals either side of half-time, Di Maria put PSG back in front and then ensured victory with a wonderful free-kick, making picking the ball out of the net the first task for Yohann Pele after Steve Mandanda was sent off as Marseille suffered more misery in this one-sided rivalry.
A special player having a special season pic.twitter.com/1RauKs0T5Y
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) March 17, 2019
The visitors received an early let-off as Di Maria lofted the ball over Mandanda, only for his effort to be ruled out after a VAR review, the technology again denying PSG in less dramatic circumstances than in their Champions League collapse.
Mandanda was then equal to a fierce Thomas Meunier effort at the end of an impressive run from the full-back, who followed Dani Alves in being forced off by injury.
However, PSG finally broke the deadlock on the stroke of half-time and in some style.
Substitute Colin Dagba found Di Maria, who took two brilliant touches to control and then played Mbappe in with a perfect pass that the France star stroked into the bottom-right corner.
Marseille needed only 27 seconds of the second half to equalise, with Thilo Kehrer beaten to a long ball by Lucas Ocampos, who then snuck a cross through his legs for Germain to tuck home on the turn.
Di Maria’s response was swift and brilliant. He jinked his way around two Marseille defenders before playing a neat one-two with Kehrer and arcing a finish inside the left-hand post.
The contest was effectively settled by the same man, with some help from Mandanda, whose bizarre decision to race 30 yards from his goal and block a Di Maria shot with his arm was predictably followed by a red card and then by a marvellous free-kick bent in off the right-hand post.
Di Maria was denied a gilt-edged chance for a hat-trick as Mbappe decided to take a stoppage-time penalty after being felled by Hiroki Sakai, but saw a tame spot-kick kept out by substitute keeper Pele.
What does it mean? Nineteen not out for PSG
PSG are 20 points clear at the top of Ligue 1, with Marseille six points adrift of Lyon, who occupy the third and final Champions League qualification place. In the context of this historic fixture, however, it is 19 games without defeat for PSG. You have to go back to November 2011 for Marseille’s last victory.
Marseille can’t solve a problem like Di Maria
Were it not for VAR, or Mbappe somewhat selfishly taking the late penalty, Di Maria would have had a richly deserved hat-trick. This was another performance in which he underlined his status as one of the finest players in world football.
Mandanda makes a mess of it
Mandanda almost gifted PSG a goal in the opening minutes when miscontrolled a backpass and his decision to exit his area in the 62nd minute proved an extremely rash one that ended Marseille’s challenge.
Key Opta Facts:
– PSG have lost none of their last 19 games in all competitions against Marseille (W16 D3), their longest such run against them. Their last defeat against OM was back in November 2011 (0-3).
– PSG have won eight of their last nine home games in Ligue 1 against Marseille (D1), after winning only six of their previous 21 (D8 L7).
– Thomas Tuchel’s side have picked up 77 points after 28 games in Ligue 1 this season, a record at this stage of the competition.
– Kylian Mbappe has scored 13 goals in Ligue 1 in 2019, only Lionel Messi (14) has scored more in the Top 5 European Leagues.
– Angel Di Maria has scored three direct free-kick goals in Ligue 1 this season, only Messi (4) has scored more.
PSG visit Toulouse after the international break, while Marseille welcome Angers to the Stade Velodrome as they bid to chase down Lyon in the race for Champions League football.
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