Paris Saint-Germain won the Trophee des Champions for a record-extending 10th time thanks to a 2-1 victory over Olympique de Marseille on Wednesday. Mauro Icardi and substitute Neymar scored in each half to secure the first piece of silverware in head coach Mauricio Pochettino’s career in just his third match since his appointment in Paris.
Dimitri Payet pulled one back for Marseille late on, but it was not enough for Andre Villas-Boas’ men as they went down at Stade Bollaert in Lens.
As usual, there was no shortage of needle in Le Classique with five bookings dished out — four for Marseille — and Alvaro Gonzalez renewed his individual rivalry with Neymar once the Brazilian superstar was on the pitch.
Here are some takeaways from the match.
Pochettino gets his prize
The wait is over. It only took him three games as PSG head coach but Pochettino now has a recognized piece of competitive silverware in his trophy cabinet, and that should finally quiet the critics who regularly hound him over his lack of titles.
Although it was not as dominant a success as he might have liked, his team was convincing enough and has shown signs of buying into his methods already with a date vs. Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 looming on the horizon.
With that monkey off of his back, it should now be more straightforward to improve PSG’s Ligue 1 positioning behind leaders Olympique Lyonnais and to prepare his players for the clash with Barca at Camp Nou.
Villas-Boas’ men paid for a disappointing first half which was a world away from the intensity they showed at Parc des Princes when they took down PSG earlier this season. Marseille did eventually hit the back of the net through Payet’s flicked finish, but they had left it too late after failing to capitalize on PSG’s lull during the second half.
In truth, it could and should have been worse for OM at the break, but PSG had a couple of goals ruled out for offside and Icardi hit the crossbar.
After a frustrating wait to return to action from a knee injury, Icardi has hit the ground running with a late goal against Stade Brestois 29 in Ligue 1 last weekend and another strike here.
Neither goal was particularly difficult but the Argentina international has shown glimpses of his old self in being in the right positions to convert those chances.
Had Icardi, 27, been slightly more tuned in, he might have found the back of the net instead of the crossbar in the first half and his header that went just wide might have hit the target. Either way, Pochettino now has Icardi, Moise Kean and Kylian Mbappe in good goal-scoring form as he tries to work out his strongest XI.
Marquinhos muzzles Marseille
Another reason why Marseille found it so difficult to break PSG down to score was Marquinhos’ ability to marshal the Parisien defense.
Without regular partner Presnel Kimpembe, who later came on as a substitute, the Brazil international stepped up as captain and helped to keep things tight with some excellent interventions.
It is this sort of display from Marquinhos that makes it easier to understand why PSG felt they were ready to move on from former skipper Thiago Silva. Had Pochettino not made a flurry of late changes to introduce the likes of Kean, Danilo Pereira and Pablo Sarabia around the time of Payet’s goal with a smart finish, Marquinhos and the defense might have had a clean sheet to show for their efforts.
Neymar makes presence felt
Although he was only on the pitch for 25 minutes, the Brazil international made his presence felt and scored PSG’s second to ensure that he played an important role in the win.
Neymar looked motivated when he came on, possibly because he got into it with Marseille earlier this season, but also because it was his first chance to impress Pochettino and his impact will have done that.
The fact that the €222 million man looked in such fine form bodes well ahead of Barcelona in the Champions League next month.