PARIS — Marseille players witnessed firsthand how big the gap is between them and the top sides of the French league as they slumped to a humiliating 5-1 loss to bitter rival Paris Saint-Germain on Sunday.
In a game that used to be the biggest in French football, host Marseille was outclassed in every aspect and was already trailing by two goals after 16 minutes. Marseille’s defensive frailties were constantly exposed afterward and the home side could have been handed a heavier loss.
Second-placed PSG remained within three points of leader Monaco, which won 2-1 at Guingamp on Saturday. Marseille sits seventh, lagging 23 points behind Monaco.
Known as "Le Classique," the match between PSG and Marseille became popular during the 1990s when the arrival of prominent stars such as Rudi Voeller and George Weah in France ignited a strong rivalry. But Marseille, the only French team to win the Champions League back in 1993, has fallen well behind since PSG was taken over by Qatari investors in 2011. Since the club’s last victory in November 2011, Marseille has lost 12 and drawn two.
Marseille’s new owner Frank McCourt has pledged to spend 200 million euros (about $210 million) over the next four years to make the team competitive again, and the recent arrivals of Dimitri Payet and Patrice Evra had boosted fans’ hopes that their team would be able to compete with PSG.
But once again the defending champions were too strong and prevailed at the Velodrome stadium with goals from Marquinhos, Edinson Cavani, Lucas, Julian Draxler and Blaise Matuidi.
Combining fluidity and pressing throughout the first half, PSG was rewarded for its dominance with two early goals. The visitors broke the deadlock after six minutes when Thiago Silva headed a long free-kick from Thiago Silva across goal and Marquinhos headed the ball in at the far post.
Cavani, the league’s top scorer with 26 goals, then made it 2-0 with a clinical finish from Javier Pastore’s assist.
Marseille defenders were caught napping early in the second half after Rod Fanni gave the ball away on the edge of the area, allowing Lucas to find enough space to score.
Substitute Julian Draxler then extended PSG’s lead with a fine finish from Thomas Meunier’s cross before Fanni scored a consolation goal for Marseille and Blaise Matuidi rounded up the win with a powerful strike in the top corner from a cut-back pass.
LYON 5, METZ 0
Star signing Memphis Depay scored his first brace in the French league as Lyon strengthened its grip on fourth spot with a thrashing of Metz.
Depay joined the French side last month in a deal that could rise to 25 million euros (around $26 million) after being unwanted at Manchester United under manager Jose Mourinho.
The 23-year-old Dutch forward put the hosts in front at the stroke of halftime after striker Alexandre Lacazette hit the post and the ball hit ‘keeper Thomas Didillon’s back. Depay found himself in the right place and sent the ball into the back of the net with a simple tap in.
Depay’s grit was on display after the interval when he lost his duel with Metz captain Cheick Doukoure on the right side of the box but immediately recovered the ball and doubled the hosts’ lead with a precise low shot past Didillon in the 53rd minute.
Metz defender Ivan Balliu then inadvertently beat his own ‘keeper with a header as he tried to clear a cross from Depay and Lacazette made it 4-0 with 12 minutes left with a superb strike in the top-left corner for his 22nd league goal this season.
Substitute Mathieu Valbuena completed the rout in added time.
Lyon maintained a four-point lead over fifth-placed Bordeaux, which won 3-2 at Lille on Saturday. Metz is 17th, just one point above the relegation zone.
SAINT-ETIENNE 0, CAEN 1
Ronny Rodelin scored the winner as Caen secured crucial points in the fight against relegation.
The win lifted the Normandy side four points off the relegation zone while sixth-placed Saint-Etienne slipped to a fourth consecutive loss in all competitions.
Rodelin has now scored three goals in his last four league starts.