Monday, 12 March 2012

Dijon 1-2 PSG: Gamiero strikes late to cheer up Sarkozy

Poor old Nicolas Sarkozy.

The French president was sat at the Stade de France yesterday afternoon looking thoroughly miserable as France slumped to defeat against England in the Six Nations. I feel his pain, I’d probably be a bit grumpy if I was forced to sit through 80 minutes of rugby.

Sarko, one of PSG’s most famous fans, was hopefully cheered by the news from Dijon, where Kevin Gameiro scored a last minute winner to keep the ten-man Parisiens top of the Ligue 1.

“We played well in the first half without scoring,” said Carlo Ancelotti afterwards.

“After Sissoko's sending-off, things obviously became more difficult. We changed the position of Javier Pastore and opted for a more defensive set-up. The team showed great mental strength and we deserved to win the match.”

Ancelotti has to take some credit for installing an admirable never-say-die quality in the team, something which you wouldn’t necessarily expect from such a new and expensively-assembled, squad. They bossed Dijon in the first half, and only a combination of poor finishing and good defending prevented them from going in at half-time in the lead.

A super double save from Baptiste Reynet thwarted Guillaume Hoarau and Javier Pastore, and the Dijon keeper also threw himself to his right to stop a good effort from Jezza Menezza. Menez went even closer with what would have been a goal-of-the-season contender, side-footing a volley just wide after Pastore’s clever cut-back. At the other end Salvatore Sirigu had little to do other than a diving save which foiled Benjamin Corgnet.

But the complexion of the match changed just before half-time, when Momo Sissoko went in for a tackle on Eric Bautheac and was dismissed by referee Philippe Malige.

As you can see from this picture (I’m very proud of my Print-Screening skills by the way), Momo’s foot was barely off the ground, and while one could make a case that he deserved a booking, a red card was harsh in the extreme.

Perhaps it was a case of Sissoko’s tough-tackling reputation going before him, or perhaps (more likely) the referee is simply incompetent. Either way it was a shame because up to that point the Mali international had been having one of his better games in a PSG shirt. Now he’ll be on the sidelines for (I think) three games.

Anyway, CA dropped Pastore into a deeper role alongside Matuidi, with Menez and Nene on the flanks supporting Hoarau. And the ten-men got the boost of an early goal in the second half, thanks to some comical defending from Chaher Zarour, who had only just come off the bench to replace Diabate. Zarour fell over as he was attempting to stop Hoarau going past him near the left-touchline, but fell over leaving Hoarau free to square the ball for Siaka Tiene to slot in his first for the club. Left-back Tiene was showing his trademark lack of positional sense by popping up on the right side of the box, but on this occasion I’ll let him off. 1-0.

PSG had enjoyed 62 per cent possession in the first half, but with a numerical advantage Dijon saw much more of the ball in the second period. We were doing a good job of keeping them at arms length until the regulation lapse from a set-piece occurred in the 76th minute. Gael Kakuta’s corner was flicked on by Corgnet and the giant Steve Paulle wriggled free to nod the ball in at the back post. So disappointing but so predictable, 1-1.

Now the home side had their tails up, and looked the more likely winners until an extraordinary lapse in stoppage time handed Les Rouges-et-Bleus the win.

Dijon had a corner, and for some reason committed their entire team forward, meaning when the ball broke to Menez he had acres of clear pitch to run into. The winger carried the ball all the way up the field, pursued by a couple of defenders, before coolly playing in Gameiro, who rifled his shot past Reynet.

Cue a massive bundle in the corner, which is always pleasing to see, and moments later the final whistle sounded confirming PSG remain clear at the top of the table by a point, with Montpellier having easily dispatched Caen 3-0 in the late match on Sunday.

After this latest last-minute goal, which follows hot on the heels of those late equalisers against MHSC and Lyon, confidence must be sky-high at the moment. And with Montpellier showing no signs of faltering either, that can only be a good thing ahead of what will be a tough run-in.

Man of the Match: Blaise Matuidi - Covered miles and miles in the middle of the park, especially after Sissoko's red card 


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