PSG, Marseille scrap to laborious wins in French league

Marseille midfielder Mario Lemina (L) celebrates with teammate Andre-Pierre Gignac after scoring against Guingamp.

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PARIS — Substitute Mario Lemina and France striker Andre-Pierre Gignac scored late in the second half as Marseille beat Guingamp 2-1 for its first win in a month while Paris Saint-Germain again struggled for inspiration in a scrappy 4-2 defeat of bottom side Evian on Sunday in the French league.

After starting the new year with back to back defeats and being knocked off the top of the standings by Lyon, Marseille was made to work by a spirited and well-organized Guingamp team before Lemina headed home from close range six minutes from time to put the hosts in front.

Gignac then extended Marseille’s lead from Dimitri Payet’s pinpointed free kick five minutes later with another header into the side netting that left goalkeeper Jonas Lossl stranded. Claudio Beauvue pulled one back from the penalty spot by sending Steve Mandanda the wrong way after Rod Fanni was sent off in added time.

Marseille moved within one point of Lyon while PSG’s win lifted the defending champions to third in the standings – four points behind the leaders – after fourth-place Saint-Etienne remained unbeaten in 12 league games but was held to a goalless draw at Rennes.

”Since the start of the year we have been somewhat too complacent. We spoke a lot during this week and we felt some improvement in our game,” Payet said. ”We’ll find our confidence back with victories like this one.”

After claiming just one point in its three previous matches, under-fire PSG coach Laurent Blanc needed a convincing win to erase the memory of a painful 4-2 loss in Bastia last weekend when his players threw away a 2-0 lead.

But his side was caught cold at the Parc des Princes, going behind in the 14th minute when Adrien Thomasson’s glanced header found Cedric Barbosa, who fired home with a half-volley.

Evian goalkeeper Benjamin Leroy then denied PSG’s handful of half chances and Blanc’s players relied on set pieces to turn things around.

”We let our opponents hurt us before we reacted,” said the PSG coach, before casting doubt on his future at the club. ”I don’t know if I be PSG coach at the end of the season. But I have the feeling that we are improving. It’s been a while since we scored so many goals and created so many chances at the Parc. Our problem is that we played such beautiful football last year. Everyone expects us to be the same this year.”

David Luiz got the better of Barbosa and leveled at the half-hour mark from a corner with a powerful header that Leroy could only divert into his own net.

Marco Verratti then scored his first goal for the club eight minutes later after Evian defenders failed to clear a long free kick. First at the ball, Zlatan Ibrahimovic could not beat his marker but Verratti made no mistake from the rebound.

As PSG fans started to relax, Gregory van der Wiel’s comical own goal silenced the home crowd and brought the 18th-ranked visitors back into the game in the 64th minute, with the defender beating keeper Salvatore Sirigu from close range with a mishit header while under no pressure.

Javier Pastore concluded a neat collective move with a precise volley for only his second goal this season to restore the hosts’ lead and substitute Edinson Cavani sealed PSG’s win two minutes from time.

Cavani, who was jeered by PSG fans when he came on, and Ezequiel Lavezzi were brought back into Blanc’s squad this weekend after the South Americans were sanctioned for failing to show up at a training camp during the Christmas break. Lavezzi also came on as a substitute in the 79th.

PSG played its first home match since the deadly assault on Charlie Hebdo magazine’s Paris office by Islamic extremists who killed 12 people. Fans paid a tribute to the victims with a minute of applause before kick-off.