Friday, 2 March 2012

PSG's month: February

"Don't panic, we'll be top again soon"
So month two of Carlo Ancelotti's reign has been and gone, and while the Italian still has yet to taste defeat as Paris St Germain boss, there have been a couple of bumps in the road.

February began with a routine-but-not-really 3-1 victory over Evian at the Parc-des-Princes. Thiago Motta was making his debut in the middle of the park, and did little to surprise anyone, popping the ball about with all the skill and grace of a footballing Roger Federer. After a promising opening 45 minutes, PSG fell to pieces like a footballing Andy Murray, going behind on the stroke of half-time. But with all the resilience of a footballing Novak Djokovic they fought back in the second half, Nene squeezing in an equaliser, then putting his side in front from the penalty spot, before Kevin Gameiro wrapped things up in stoppage time.

Leaving that match - and rubbish tennis analogies - behind, the following Sunday Les Rouges-et-Bleus made their way down to Nice, and fought out a 0-0 draw which was reportedly one of the worst football matches in history, notable only for the fact that it saw another January signing, defender Alex, make his debut. That midweek we progressed in the Coupe de France thanks to a 1-0 victory over Dijon. Nene, or as the official club website dubbed him, the Inevitable Nene, popped up with the winner. A home tie with Lyon awaits on March 21 in the quarters.

So far so mediocre, but the last two games upped the ante considerably. First met second at the Parc-des-Princes on February 19, with PSG hosting Montpellier. In what was a fast-flowing and entertaining encounter, PSG hit the front when Alex blasted in a free kick which swerved at the last minute to deceive Jourdren in the MHSC goal. But it was a short-lived lead, as Younes Belhanda darted in to head the equaliser just before the break to level for the paupers.

After half-time Montpellier had the better of it, despite the return of Javier Pastore, who came off the bench after recovering from injury. And it looked as if they would pull off a famous victory when John Utaka took advantage of more terrible marking to nod home Olivier Giroud's cross in the 82nd minute. However, just as the whole of Ligue 1 prepared to cheer a victory for the plucky under-dogs, Jezza Menezza produced a delightful bit of skill to turn away from his marker twice and set up a last minute leveller for substitute Guillame Hoarau, who made the final score 2-2.

That goal earned Hoarau a start ahead of the out-of-form Gameiro for last Saturday's trip to Lyon, and what an inspired change it turned out to be. Hoarau gave his side an early lead, sweeping home a clever free kick from Menez. Lyon may no longer have the star quality they possessed in their glory days, but they still have a few potential match-winners, and three of them got on the score-sheet in the first half. Bafe Gomis, Lisandro Lopez and Michel Bastos with a howitzer of a shot put Les Gones in command, only for a Nene penalty just before half time to reduce the arrears.

When Jimmy Briand made it 4-2, heading in a corner, the game looked to be up for PSG. But this team never knows when it's beaten, and Marcos Ceara, who had had a bit of a dig at Ancelotti in the press for freezing him out of the first team picture, came off the bench to smash in a goal that gave his team hope. Then right at the death Hoarau popped up to head in his second last minute equaliser in two weeks and tie the scores at 4-4.

That point could turn out to be a crucial one, but the short-terms result of that draw is that we're not top anymore, with the commendable Montpellier having edged past Bordeaux 1-0 to take over as Ligue 1 leaders. All PSG can do is keep winning their games, starting with Sunday's home game against Ajaccio, and wait for their rivals to slip up.

Player of the Month: Nene - Four more goals in Feb for the man who has rapidly become his team's key attacking player.

Match of the Month: Lyon 4-4 PSG. Must be a contender for game of the season, let alone the month.


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