Monday, 3 September 2012

LOSC Lille 1-2 Paris Saint-Germain: Ibra-cadabra lights up the Grand Stade

Jimmy Alegrino and Zlatan Ibrahimovic; one, a journeyman (my opinion) French defender of the 1990s, the other one of the greatest strikers to ever walk the earth (his opinion).

This unlikely duo are the last two Paris Saint-Germain players to score winners in Lille, and Zlatan's double at the Grand Stade Metropole last night ensured PSG could celebrate a first victory at LOSC since Alegrino's strike gave them a 1-0 triumph way back in April 1997. Hoodoo-tastic.

What made the win, PSG's first in four matches this season, even better was that it was richly deserved. The team put in the kind of controlled performance that we should expect from such an expensively assembled group of players, and they've now set themselves a standard which they must repeat when Ligue 1 resumes after the international break.

The team selection helped. I've been critical of Ancelotti's choices so far this season, but last night he got the balance just right. A midfield three of Matuidi, Motta, and Verratti, gave us a good blend of steel and style, with Verratti in particular impressing with his willingness to take possession and play his way out of tight situations. The "new Pirlo" tag which has been attached to the teenager looks more and more fitting by the game.

In defence we looked shaky early on, but after the first 20 minutes or so managed to keep Lille at bay with aplomb. Mamadou Sakho was particularly impressive, showing signs that he may, at long last, be returning to the sort of the form which made him one of Europe's brightest defensive prospects a couple of years ago. The same cannot be said of Christophe Jallet, who looked about as comfortable as Joey Barton in McDonalds, constantly giving the ball away in dangerous areas. One wonders whether the imminent arrival of Gregory van der Wiel has unsettled the usually reliable skipper.

And up front we had Zlatan, whose sheer quality was, ultimately, the difference between the sides. He got the ball rolling after just 27 seconds, receiving a pass from Menez and clipping an angled finish over Mickael Landreau.

Although they finished third behind PSG, Lille were arguably the second best team in France last season, and were never going to give up without a fight. But shorn of the prodigious talent that is Eden Hazard, their neat passing football lacked cutting edge. Nolan Roux had an overhead kick saved by Salvatore Sirigu before they notched the equaliser in the 12th minute. Jallet's mistake led to a corner being conceded, and Aurelien Chedjou got across his marker (Ibra) to head in at the near post.

At this stage it looked like Lille might take control, with Marvin Martin pulling the strings in midfield, and Dimitri Payet causing Jallet all sorts of problems on the left. But Zlatan's second in the 21st minute turned the tide back in PSG's favour. The Swede played the ball into Pastore, and raced through the centre to reach El Flaco's through pass before finishing coolly, lifting a shot over the advancing Landreau.

Lille introduced Solomon Kalou at half-time, and the Ivorian could have had a goal in slightly fortunate circumstances when Sirigu dived to punch away a cross but only succeeded in deflecting it onto Kalou's shins. Fortunately for those of a Parisien persuasion the ball rolled wide of the post.

But other than that Sirigu remained largely untroubled, with Lille's possession amounting to little other than a couple of crosses which zipped through the six-yard box, and a header from substitute Tulio De Melo which was straight at the keeper.

At the other end Zlatan remained a constant thorn in the side of the LOSC defence, and could have completed his hat-trick when his header was brilliantly tipped over the bar by Landreau. But 2-1 it finished, and PSG supporters were able to celebrate a long overdue first league win of the season.

Man of the Match: Zlatan Ibrahimovic - Dropped deep to orchestrate most of PSG's best attacks, and was involved in everything, including the Lille equaliser.


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