PARIS, FRANCE February 25 – David Beckham enjoyed a memorable Paris Saint-Germain debut when he came off the bench to help set up the second goal in the Ligue 1 leaders 2-0 win over bitter rivals Marseille.
The win kept Carlo Ancelotti’s side three points clear of Lyon who defeated Lorient 3-1 earlier in the day.
Former Manchester United, Real Madrid and LA Galaxy star Beckham came on in the 76th minute on a freezing, snowy night in Paris to a rousing reception.
After an assured first touch and two more clean passes, a stray ball down the wing was met with derision from the Marseille fans who were pushing their team forward in search of a late equaliser.
But in a Hollywood ending to his debut, Beckham made sure the headlines will again feature his name by playing a crucial role in the second PSG goal.
The 37-year-old Englishman, who is the oldest player in Ligue 1, played a neat one-two with Jeremy Menez who then crossed the ball which bounced in off the leg of Zlatan Ibrahimovic for the Swede’s league-leading 22nd goal of the season.
© AFP Lyon’s Steed Malbranque (L) keeps the ball away from Lorient’s Arnaud Le Lan on February 24, 2013
© AFP Philippe Merle
“It was a great match, the biggest in France,” said Beckham.
“The welcome I got before the match and when I came on was fantastic. To have the opportunity at my age to play in such a great championship and with a great team, I am very happy and very proud.”
Ancelotti admitted that Beckham could start Wednesday’s French Cup clash at home to Marseille.
“He came on because Marco Verratti was tired and we needed fresh players on the pitch,” said Ancelotti, who took off Javier Pastore to accommodate Beckham.
“He showed quality with his passes, his experience. He showed good qualities even if it was difficult to judge in only 20 minutes.”
Asked if Beckham could start against Marseille at the Parc des Princes, Ancelotti said: “Perhaps. Verratti is suspended, so maybe he will play.”
The game more than lived up to the massive hype of Beckham’s impact during a rousing first-half that saw PSG dominate the early chances and hitting the post in the second minute before taking a fortunate lead on 11 minutes.
© AFP The wife of David Beckham, Victoria Beckham watches the Paris Saint-Germain match against Marseille on February 24, 2013
© AFP Kenzo Tribouillard
Brazilian star Lucas Moura was at the heart of the breakthrough as his determination led to some sustained pressure that finally produced a shot that was deflected twice, first by Joey Barton and then decisively by Cameroon defender Nicolas N’Koulou for an own-goal that left ‘keeper Steve Mandanda stranded.
The danger man for Marseille as they chased an equaliser at 1-0 down was French striker Andre-Pierre Gignac who saw his goal-bound effort on 53 minutes glance off the arm of PSG’s Italian ‘keeper Salvatore Sirigu.
Moments later, another loose ball in the PSG box was acrobatically driven towards goal by Gignac, only for Sirigu to intervene with a tipped save over the bar.
However the highlight for the home fans, and many neutrals, was the introduction of Beckham who came on for Pastore with the game on the line and only 14 minutes left.
Earlier on Sunday, seven-time champions Lyon kept up the pressure on PSG with a come-from-behind 3-1 victory over Brittany side Lorient at the Stade Gerland.
Remi Garde’s men, who crashed out of the Europa League in midweek, returned to winning ways thanks to goals from Lisandro Lopez, Rachid Ghezzal and Arnold Mvuemba.
The visitors had taken an 11th-minute lead through Jeremie Aliadiere.
“It does us good in the table and for our confidence,” said a relieved Garde.
“Despite our elimination against Tottenham, the players proved that they could compete with the really top teams. There is a lot of ambition in my squad despite the youth that you could obviously see on the pitch.”
Bordeaux put a damp note on their week’s work as they crashed to a surprise 2-0 home defeat against relegation threatened Brest, just days after eliminating Dynamo Kiev to reach the last 16 of the Europa League.