PARIS — After Neymar was sent off, Edinson Cavani stepped up for league leader Paris Saint-Germain with an injury-time free kick to salvage a 2-2 draw Sunday at rival Marseille.
Cavani won the foul after being knocked over by forward Bouna Sarr, and curled the ball in off the underside of the crossbar with goalkeeper Steve Mandanda slightly slow to cover.
“It’s an important goal,” Cavani said of his ninth goal of the season. “It was difficult to play here in a tough atmosphere.”
Cavani took the free kick because Neymar, the world’s most expensive player when he joined from Barcelona for 222 million euros ($260 million), picked up a second yellow card in the 87th minute.
“After the sending off it was hard, but the character of the team got us through,” PSG coach Unai Emery said. “I don’t think it was fair on Neymar. He gets provoked in every game. “
Neymar will be suspended for Friday’s home match against Nice.
The Brazil striker reacted angrily to a challenge from behind from Lucas Ocampos, and sent the Argentine winger tumbling to the ground at Stade Velodrome in retribution.
That happened soon after winger Florian Thauvin acrobatically volleyed home in the 78th from substitute Clinton Njie’s pass to give Marseille a 2-1 lead.
Despite conceding late on, it was a confidence boost for Marseille after being routed 5-1 at home by PSG last season.
“We thought we’d done enough to win,” Mandanda said. “But we should be happy and proud of our performance.”
Marseille is fifth in the standings, eight points behind PSG and four behind second-place Monaco.
PSG was heavy favorite, but Marseille twice took the lead.
“Edinson got us out of a difficult situation. It was a difficult match. We were a bit too casual in how we started the game,” PSG forward Kylian Mbappe said. “Maybe we didn’t treat it as importantly as we should have done.”
Marseille certainly did.
Backed by 60,000 fans, the home side scored in the 16th minute. Holding midfielder Luiz Gustavo was given too much room, and the former Bayern Munich midfielder hit a swerving 30-meter shot into the bottom left corner.
After Cavani then missed, Neymar took a pass from midfielder Adrien Rabiot just inside the penalty area and drilled a low shot in off the right post in the 33rd.
There were no PSG fans present because of security concerns. Marseille fans clashed with riot police before the game.
Nice is the surprise team of the French league once again, this time for the wrong reasons.
Having finished third last season, losing only four games, Nice slumped to its sixth defeat of the campaign with a 2-1 home loss to Strasbourg.
Cape Verde striker Nuno Da Costa scored in each half for Strasbourg.
Midfielder Pierre Lees-Melou pulled a goal back in the 54th — converting Nice’s penalty kick in the absence of striker Mario Balotelli — after defender Ernest Seka was sent off for fouling winger Allan Saint-Maximin.
But Strasbourg held on for a win that moved the promoted side out of the relegation zone.
The defeat pushed Nice down to 14th place.
Memphis Depay sealed his hat trick with a Panenka-style penalty, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way as Lyon cruised to a 5-0 win at Troyes.
The Netherlands forward earned the penalty in the 70th, running onto a pass from striker Mariano Diaz, drawing a defender and ending with a shot that defender Christophe Herelle saved with his arm. Herelle was red carded and Depay — the designated penalty taker — then argued with Diaz, who wanted to take it.
Winger Bertrand Traore turned in a cross from Brazilian left back Marcal in the 21st to open the scoring and Depay made it 2-0 with a neat finish four minutes into the second half.
Depay netted his second midway through the second half, curling the ball into the right corner following a run from Diaz.
“People expect a lot from me,” said Depay, who has five league goals this season. “I have to find my way in the team.”
Diaz completed the scoring near the end, helping Lyon move up to fourth spot.