David Beckham made his Paris St Germain bow last night and enjoyed the perfect start as his new side struck a vital blow in their bid to win the Ligue 1 title.
Former England captain Beckham joined PSG on a five-month deal last month and came off the bench to make his debut at the Parc des Princes, helping to lay on Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s injury-time clincher.
The opener had arrived from a player signed with the long-term in mind, with Lucas Moura, a fellow January arrival, scoring a deflected first-half goal.
The upshot was that Carlo Ancelotti’s men saw off one of their fellow title challengers and moved three points ahead of Lyon at the top.
Lucas opened the scoring, his goal coming 11 minutes in. The Brazilian jinked inside a marker from the right and opened his body to shoot, with his 25-yard effort brushing the defending Joey Barton and then clattering into Nicolas N’Koulou, with that deflection enough to wrong-foot Steve Mandanda and put PSG ahead.
Beckham joined in the celebrations on the bench and his team-mates on the pitch were relatively untroubled afterwards, with Andre Ayew, Marseille’s liveliest forward, lucky not to avoid injury himself as he chopped down Ibrahimovic.
The crowd got what they wanted when Beckham replaced Javier Pastore with 76 minutes gone. His first touch was an excellent curled pass to the right, but despite his calming presence, PSG remained on the backfoot and Rod Fanni’s brilliant volley was thumped away by Sirigu.
Beckham would have a say at the other end, though, and with seconds of injury time left he chipped a pass into the left-hand channel of the area for Jeremy Menez, whose cross was tucked in by Ibrahimovic for a clinching 22nd goal of the season.
Meanwhile, in Italy, Inter Milan survived a torrid first half before hitting back to hold arch-rivals AC Milan to a 1-1 draw in their Serie A derby last night.
Stephan El Shaarawy put Milan ahead after 21 minutes and Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic twice denied ex-Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli with reflex saves before half-time. Substitute Ezequiel Schelotto headed in Yuto Nagatomo’s cross to equalise in the 71st minute, only three minutes after coming on as a substitute. Milan, third in Serie A with 45 points, stayed one ahead of Inter.
Celtic’s Champions League opponents, Juventus, extended their lead at the top of Serie A to seven points thanks to a 3-0 win over Siena. Stephan Lichtsteiner and Sebastian Giovinco gave the Bianconeri a two-goal advantage, but Siena hit the woodwork twice as they made Juve work hard for their win.
Paul Pogba then ended Siena’s hopes with a third goal in the dying stages. The three points take Antonio Conte’s side further ahead of Napoli at the top of the table, while Siena remain just a point off the foot of the table and five adrift of safety.
Serie A’s bottom side Palermo yesterday fired coach Alberto Malesani after only three games and, in an extraordinary move, immediately brought back the man he replaced – Gian Piero Gasperini. The move came after Saturday’s goalless draw with Genoa left them six points adrift of safety.
In Spain, a Radamel Falcao penalty helped ten-man Atletico Madrid preserve their 100 per cent home record in La Liga with a 1-0 victory over a resurgent Espanyol.