Neymar blames the referee for “falling for Marseille’s theatrics” after his sending off in Paris Saint-Germain’s explosive 2-2 draw at the Stade Velodrome on Sunday. Neymar was constantly harried and niggled by a series of fouls in the grudge game against PSG’s bitter Ligue 1 rivals, and pelted by projectiles hurled by Marseille fans whilst taking corners.
The former Barcelona striker was eventually sent off for two yellow cards late on, both for retaliation with the Brazilian superstar appearing to aim a headbutt at Marseille’s Argentine striker Lucas Ocampos.
“That wasn’t football,” the world’s most expensive player complained. “The referee fell into the trap of falling for Marseille’s theatrics. I was the target of lots of missiles, cans, baguettes. I didn’t lose my cool but I accept my mistake.”
He described the heated atmosphere on the south coast as similar to “a Champions League” night.
“We tried to play as we know how but it was difficult. PSG weren’t great....Marseille were good whilst we were below standard. We have to become used to this type of rival.”
Tensions were running high for France’s ‘clasico’, from which PSG fans were banned over security fears.
Supporters fought battles with police outside the ground with cars bearing Paris number plates attacked. There were 16 arrests.
PSG coach Unai Emery meanwhile urged Ligue 1 referees to make sure marquee players like Neymar were better protected. “We are a bit disappointed by the sending off because he was fouled a great deal during the game,” said Emery.
“He suffered four serious fouls from our opponents which continued and continued and continued,” added the Spaniard, insisting the Paris capital side’s 222 million euro ($261.5 million) prize asset had been provoked throughout the match.
“It’s up to all of us to protect the big players, on both sides, because (Dimitri) Payet is also a good player,” said Emery in reference to the Marseille playmaker.
Neymar had been excellent for PSG scoring a cool-headed equaliser and looking every inch a big game player until his rush of blood to the head and the red card with his side 2-1 down in the 88th minute.
“Those yellow cards were not fair on Neymar, he’s a man who wants to play,” said Emery. “He hasn’t been battered here, but if he gets that treatment every game.....I believe the referee should have had a good think about it. We need to protect the great players.”
Marseille opened the scoring with a Luiz Gustavo long range shot on 16 minutes before Neymar levelled with a fine threaded shot on 33 minutes for his 10th goal in 11 games for the club. After Florian Thauvin fired Marseille ahead late on, Neymar was booked and then red-carded in the space of two minutes.
In a dramatic ending, a bullet-like free-kick from Edinson Cavani made it 2-2 in time added on to salvage a point for PSG as Marseille players slumped to the Stade Velodrome pitch in disgust and frustration. The result means PSG keep their unbeaten record atop Ligue 1 with 26 points, four ahead of Monaco on 22. Marseille are fifth on 18.