The Stade Vélodrome applauding its team after a draw isn't a common occurance. But the players attitude and performance deserved it. In ,keeping with their performances since the start of the season, Olympique de Marseille battled hard to deny their Parisian rivals the chance of taking their place atop the Ligue 1 standings, at home, in the Clasico.
Galvanised by the electric atmosphere, even before kick-off, OM simply refused to enter the match as the victims, before even a ball was kicked.
Both sides traded blows, traded goals. The intense first half was followed by a more sedate second period, more tactical, more defensive. As though both sides had sufficiently tested the attacking prowess of their opponents and preferred to sit a little deeper and wait. The purists may not have appreciated the second 45 minutes, frustration is certainly too strong a word to describe the feeling at the end of the match.
At full-time, the names of the goal scorers makes for interesting reading. But the match cannot be reduced to the battle of two strikers. Dédé 2-2 Zlatan, at half time? Not exactly, because while PSG relies almost solely on the skill of and talent of their Sweden international to make the difference, the same cannot be said of OM. Elie Baup's side, that welcomed back Abdallah on the right, tried to play good, team football throughout the opening 45 minutes. The way they knocked the ball in tight spaces, and then long and direct. The first goal was in every way a carbon copy of JPP's legendary strike in the final of the Cup against Monaco (1989), from the build up (ball won back in midfield) to the finish (dribble inside out to beat defender before diagonal shot across the 'keeper).
The comparison will probably delight both parties. But above all, the rapid opening goal was reward for an excellent first few minutes. And the equaliser, a header from a Valbuena corner, set them back on the right track after PSG's Viking had struck twice.
Ibrahimovic? Quiet from open play and overall, but deadly with two of the three chances that came his way. Each more impressive than the last. First, the acrobatic flying backheel from a corner (1-1) and then a missile of a free-kick (1-2). All that in just two minutes. It was a demonstration that even surprised the most ardent OM supporters.
And yet in the stands and on the pitch, OM kept bouncing back. Nicolas N’Koulou led the way with a stunning display of class, steel and vision. The whole team fought to win the ball back and then hold onto it.
Perhaps the only thing missing for OM was that little grain of the unexpected in a match that they controlled and then, in the second half, sat back and repelled.
By introducing Gameiro for Pastore at half time, Ancelotti tried to add pace up front, like the capital club has used against Sochaux last weekend. He then brought on two more full-backs...
But Marseille was not about to get caught out. They waited for their chance, but in the end, it didn't come for either team. The two could not be separated and, as the league takes a one week international break, the Parisians remain three points adrift of OM, solid Ligue 1 leader...