By Andy Ferguson


Zlatan takes the plaudits for his stunning backheel volley opener

With a host of high profile fixtures taking place across Europe’s this weekend, Ligue 1 felt obliged to step up and provide a mouth watering encounter of their own.

Le Classique – between Olympique de Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain – is French club football’s fiercest and most anticipated derby, with little love lost between the sides.

The added incentive of top spot for the victor meant that all eyes were focussed on Sunday night’s meeting at the Stade Velodrome.

After a six game winning start to the campaign, Marseille were looking to get back on track after last week’s 4-1 demolition at the hands of Valenciennes.

PSG, on the other hand, aimed to continue their rise to the top of Ligue 1. After three disappointing draws, the big spending capital side had won their last four on the bounce and sat just three points behind their southern rivals.

However, the Parisian’s record at the Velodrome is less than impressive; 22 defeats in 34 league meetings and without a win in their last three.

On the night it was a tale of two strikers as Andre-Pierre Gignac and Zlatan Ibrahimovic hit first half braces to ensure that the points were shared.

The pair matched each other blow for blow, with Gignac the first to break the deadlock after 18 minutes. In a period of sustained Marseille pressure, Andre Ayew exploited space down the right wing, releasing the forward who was able to escape the attentions of PSG captain Christophe Jallet and fire past a helpless Salvatore Sirigu in the visiting goal.

This was Gignac’s fourth strike of the season – an impressive return to form and fitness for the France international.

Paris Saint-Germain had set out with the industrious central midfield pairing of Blaise Matuidi and Clement Chantome to support the more creative Javier Pastore and Jeremy Menez. However, the northerners’ lack of width caused problems, as OM created a number of chances down the right hand side over the course of the game.

The goal sparked an incredible 10 minute period for PSG and it wasn’t long before the score-line was levelled. Stand up Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

It was a moment of magic from the Swede in the 23rd minute, as he evaded defender Nicolas Nkoulou to blast home Maxwell’s corner with a scintillating backheeled volley.

Always one for the spectacular, Ibrahimovic exceeded his previous attempt two minutes later, thundering a 30 yard freekick past the stranded goalkeeper Steve Mandanda and silencing the Velodrome faithful.

As expected, the striker has set Ligue 1 alight since joining from AC Milan this summer, hitting nine goals in only eight games.

However, this season has seen the resurgence of a sterner Marseille and the home side regrouped admirably.  Gignac was the hero once again, timing his run and connecting brilliantly with Mathieu Valbuena’s corner on 32 minutes to tie the game at 2-2.

Gignac wheels away to celebrate his equaliser

A brilliant first half closed to a rousing reception from the crowd, with two strikers performing at peak of their ability and an excellent advert for French football.

Sadly, the second 45 minutes failed to live up to the same level of excitement, as both sides tightened up considerably at the back.

In an attempt to secure the draw, Paris Saint-Germain removed youngster Marco Verratti and Jeremy Menez for the more defensive minded Sylvain Armand and Gregory Van der Wiel.

Even the two star men, Ibrahimovic and Gignac, could do nothing to spur their teams on to victory as the substitutions took the spark out of the game and goalmouth chances were lacking.

The withdrawal of the terrific Andre-Pierre Gignac 10 minutes from time earned the forward a deserved standing ovation. His replacement Loic Remy could do little to influence proceedings as there was no grandstand finish to the game.

In the end both teams will be satisfied with a draw that preserves the status quo in Ligue 1. Marseille may walk away the slightly happier, retaining their three point advantage over their rivals at the top of the table, whilst PSG maintain their unbeaten start to the campaign.