Monday, 5 March 2012

PSG 4-1 Ajaccio: Menez and his top boyz

I haz the mad skilz

As footballing weekends go, this one couldn't have gone much better for those of a Parisien persuasion.

Marseille got done by Toulouse, Lille managed to throw away a two-goal lead against Auxerre, and perhaps most importantly an Olivier Giroud-less Montpellier could only draw 1-1 with Dijon.

It was all set for Paris St Germain to reclaim the leadership of Ligue 1, and they did so at a canter, beating Ajaccio 4-1.

Looking at the bare statistics, you may think that the score-line flattered PSG; after all, two of the goals came in the last five minutes. But Carlo Ancelotti's men were well worth their three-goal winning margin, and could've run up a bigger score were it not for some wasteful finishing in the closing stages.

Ancelotti made one change to the starting line-up from the team that drew 4-4 with Lyon, with Matuidi replacing Sissoko in midfield as part of a 4-3-2-1 cum 4-2-3-1, with Menez, Pastore and Nene getting forward to support Guillaume Hoarau. This system never looked that great during Antoine Kombouare's reign, but it worked pretty well today, and the impact of having the more muscular Hoarau in the side ahead of Kevin Gameiro cannot be underestimated.

For me Matuidi gives the team more than Sissoko, and he and Motta provided a good base for the creative players to go and, er, be creative.

It was Pastore who opened the scoring during a one-sided first half. El Flaco played a nice one-two with Matuidi before advancing into the box and finishing with aplomb. The goal was Pastore's first in Ligue 1 since he netted in the 4-2 victory over Caen at the end of October, and it's probably not much of an exaggeration to say this was his best performance since that purple patch back in autumn.

Pastore was also involved in the second goal two minutes later, feeding Jezza Menezza, who did the rest with a delighted curling shot which was lofted just out of reach of Guillarmo Ochoa in the visitors goal. 2-0.

Unfortunately, PSG's brilliance in attack is always tempered by their incompetence in defence. I like to think of our back four as being like an old, crap, car - you take out some defective parts (Tiene, Lugano) and replace them with better parts (Alex, Maxwell) but the end result is still an old, crap, car. Just before half-time they failed to deal with a free kick hoiked into the box, and though Sirigu blocked Diawara's initial shot, he could do nothing as Poullard snaffled the rebound.

Les Rouges-et-Bleu started the second half rather sluggishly, but our visitors from Corsica couldn't muster too much by way of shots on goal, and PSG gradually took control.

In fact it was only the brilliance of Ochoa that kept the score down, the Mexican reacting smartly to block Nene's effort from an acute angle, then diving full to his right to palm away a shot from Hoarau. When Ochoa was beaten, Nene's curling free kick came back off the cross-bar.

But with the fans inside the Parc-des-Princes perhaps anticipating a nervous last few minutes, Hoarau put the result beyond doubt with his fourth goal in three games. Nene was the architect, slipping a delightful through-ball into the striker's path, and he did the rest with a confident first-time finish.

One sour note of the afternoon was an injury to Maxwell, who limped off in the 77th minute. However, his replacement Siaka Tiene was involved in the fourth goal in stoppage time. The Ivorian's cross was volleyed back across the six-yard box by another sub, Clement Chantome, and Nene side-footed in from close-range. It was lovely to see Chantome on the pitch and involved in a goal, and we can only hope he has edged his way up the pecking order and will get more pitch-time during the run in.

Man of the Match: Jeremy Menez - End product was sometimes wayward, but this was one of his brightest games of the season.


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