David Beckham made a winning start to his career with Paris Saint-Germain with a hand in the second goal as Carlo Ancelotti’s men beat Olympique Marseille 2-0 at the Parc des Princes.
An own goal from Nicolas N'Koulou gave the hosts the advantage at the interval but Marseille were the dominant force for large swathes of the second half.
Salvatore Sirigu made a string of fine second-half saves before Zlatan Ibrahimovic doubled his side's advantage in the penultimate minute of the match.
The keeper started by turning an André-Pierre Gignac effort around the post before clawing out an Andre Ayew header with PSG finishing the game in a state of flux.
Ancelotti turned to the bench as he looked to restore some of the first-half fluidity to his side’s play and Beckham retained a modicum of calm as he took up residence in midfield with a little under 15 minutes left to play.
In fact, it was his pass that instigated the move that resulted in PSG confirming all three points in the dying minutes of the game.
His first-time through-ball set Jeremy Menez free in the box and his cut back was dispatched by Ibrahimovic to ensure that the men from Paris re-opened a three-point advantage at the top of the table.
With Lyon’s 3-1 victory over FC Lorient earlier in the evening having drawn them level with Les Parisiens at the top of Ligue 1, Le Classique took on even further significance in Ancelotti’s quest to secure a first Ligue 1 title in almost two decades for the nouveau-riche Paris club.
Marseilles’s last-gasp victory over Valenciennes in their last fixture left Elie Baup’s men five points off the top in third place and ensured they still had an outside chance of regaining a title they last won in 2009-10.
Much of the pre-match focus had been on Beckham’s inclusion in the matchday squad, but, as expected, he was named among the substitutes. Lucas Moura and Alex were fit enough for the starting XI but Ancelotti was still without the influential trio of Thiago Motta, Mamadou Sakho and Thiago Silva.
For Marseille, new signing Alaixys Romao partnered Joey Barton in midfield but Baup was without the injured Benoit Cheyrou while Jordan Ayew served the first of a two-match suspension.
Despite being set up rather conservatively, Marseille offered the host’s potent front four a very early sight of goal when Ibrahimovic’s deft through-ball offered Ezequiel Lavezzi time and space inside the visiting box to measure a volley that, although well-struck, hit the post and spun across the box and out of danger.
However, that warning went unheeded as the men from southern France found themselves again cut open with just over ten minutes on the clock. An over-hit through-ball from Lucas Moura had looked to bring another incisive break to a conclusion, but the hosts worked the ball back through midfield to the Brazilian, who cut inside and drew aim from 25 yards.
While the shot had some venom, its trajectory suggested it to be a rather rudimentary save for Steve Mandanda but a double deflection – first off Barton and then N'Koulou – rendered the keeper a spectator as the ball spun into an untended net.
The response from L'OM, led by Mathieu Valbuena, was impressive, and offered some threat, but, with Lavezzi and Ibrahimovic dovetailing intelligently, the hosts were a threat on the break as Baup’s men pressed forward in search of parity before the interval.
Foued Kadir drew a save from Sirigu with a stinging drive from just inside the box before the keeper had to be alert moments later and get a firm hand to a well-struck Gignac effort that was creeping in at the near post.
Despite those opportunities, PSG could have taken a two-goal advantage to the interval when the hapless N’Koulou appeared to haul down Lavezzi in the box on the stroke of half-time following a quick break, but the referee was unmoved.
Valbuena set the tone for a frantic second period when he had an early chance deflected for a corner and L'OM were rampant as they looked for a leveller - and they would have had it had it not been for the smart reflexes of Sirigu, who denied Gignac and then Ayew with saves of some quality.
PSG threatened intermittently on the break as the visitors finished firmly in the ascendancy. Les Parisiens’ best opportunity came in the shape of a breakaway that culminated in a shot from Ibrahimovic that – while powerful – never threatened the goal of Mandanda as the cut-back from Moura was fractionally behind the Swede.
With PSG reticent, Ancelotti turned to the bench as he looked to close out the game, so, Beckham’s eagerly awaited introduction to French football came with 77 minutes on the clock.
For a player who had not played since LA Galaxy’s MLS Cup win in early December, he quickly adjusted to the pace of the game and it was his instinctive first-time ball that released Menez to set up the all-important second goal that secured the win.
"Obviously, I'm very happy. Very happy to be part of a winning team. It was a very big game," he said.
"It was a special night for me personally. For the team, it was a great night."
Matuidi was thrilled to partner with Beckham, one of his childhood heroes.
"It's true happiness. When I was a kid, I was one of his fans," the 25-year-old said.
"We are really very satisfied to play by his side."
Also on Sunday in Ligue 1 Brest moved up to 14th courtesy of a 2-0 win at Bordeaux.
- Sports & Recreation
- David Beckham
- Carlo Ancelotti
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic
- Lucas Moura