David Beckham makes debut as PSG beats Marseille 2-0
By Trung Latieule
David Beckham celebrated his Paris Saint-Germain debut by helping to create the second goal as the French leaders beat bitter rival Marseille 2-0.
The 37-year-old former England captain came off the bench in the 76th minute of a tight match and, in stoppage time, his clever flick with the outside of his foot released fellow substitute Jeremy Menez down the left.
The subsequent cross was turned in by striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic for his league-leading 22nd goal of the season.
"The manager just told me to go and take the ball. There was a little bit of pressure on tonight, I enjoyed coming on," Beckham says. "I always knew that coming here and being a part of this team, I was never going to be in the starting 11 straight off, and that's the way I'll probably think for a while."
After the second goal, Beckham rushed up to Ibrahimovic and jumped into the imposing Sweden striker's arms to the sound of cheers from relieved PSG fans because Marseille had forced eight saves from goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu.
"I needed a fresh player on the pitch. He brought us the quality of his passing, his experience, tactical understanding," PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti said, praising Beckham's impact.
With midfielder Marco Verratti suspended for Wednesday's French Cup game against Marseille, Ancelotti said Beckham could start.
PSG took the lead in the 11th minute when Brazil winger Lucas' shot deflected off center back Nicolas N'Koulou and wrong-footed goalkeeper Steve Mandanda.
The win keeps PSG three points ahead of second-place Lyon and eight clear of third-place Marseille.
"It was a difficult match against an energetic team which put us under a lot of pressure," Ancelotti said.
Earlier Sunday, Lyon beat Lorient 3-1 and Bordeaux lost 2-0 at home to Brest, dropping to 10th place.
At Parc des Princes, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was sat next to PSG sporting director Leonardo, while former Brazil striker Ronaldo and Samuel Eto'o were among the other high-profile guests watching Beckham.
The ground announcer called for the crowd to give Beckham a warm welcome as he was paraded before fans five minutes before the start of the match, and he received a loud ovation. Fans chanted "David, David" as he warmed up before coming on for playmaker Javier Pastore.
"The atmosphere in the stadium, the reception that I got tonight was pretty incredible," Beckham said. "Playing for a top-flight team, to be able to do that at my age, I'm very happy about that."
Beckham is looking to win a championship title in a fourth different country after previous success with Manchester United, Real Madrid and Los Angeles Galaxy. He had not played a competitive match since his last appearance for the Galaxy on Dec. 1.
"It's been tough getting up to speed, because I obviously took seven weeks off and did absolutely nothing," Beckham said. "It was difficult to get back to fitness, but I feel good."
Marseille lined up in a 4-4-1-1 formation, with Mathieu Valbuena sitting just behind center forward Andre-Pierre Gignac. But the visitors looked sloppy early on, and when Ibrahimovic flicked the ball on to Ezequiel Lavezzi, the Argentina winger hit the post with a fierce shot after just two minutes.
PSG took the lead when Blaise Matuidi slipped the ball to Lucas about 25 meters out, and his shot first clipped Joey Barton and then deflected off N'Koulou, with Mandanda stranded 10 meters off his line.
Marseille became more aggressive and winger Andre Ayew crashed into Ibrahimovic from behind, although Ayew came off worse.
Marseille had to wait until the 31st for its first shot on target as midfielder Foued Kadir's effort was tipped over by Sirigu.
Marseille gained in confidence, and Valbuena forced Sirigu into a low save with a free kick and Gignac also drew a save shortly afterward. Sirigu then made some fine stops in the second half to keep out an overhead kick and an angled drive from Gignac, and a looping header from Ayew.
"There's a feeling of frustration because we deserved to get back to 1-1," Marseille coach Elie Baup said. "Sirigu made quite a few saves, and we had 60 percent possession. But they were formidable on the break and took their chances."
At Stade Gerland, Lorient took the lead in the 10th minute when Lyon goalkeeper Remy Vercoutre could only palm a header from Jeremie Aliadiere into his own net.
But goals from Argentine striker Lisandro Lopez, winger Rachid Ghezzal and substitute Arnold Mvuemba sealed a win for Lyon.
"I've always said that we play to be champions knowing there's PSG in our way," Lopez said. "As long as it's possible, I'll keep believing."
Lyon conceded a late goal on Thursday to draw 1-1 with Tottenham and lose 3-2 on aggregate in the Europa League.
Meanwhile, Bordeaux conceded an own goal through defender Benoit Tremoulinas and Ahmed Kantari doubled the lead with a penalty.
Watch the video to see Beckham's reaction after the game.