Thursday, 1 November 2012

PSG 2-0 Marseille: PSG's fanni-tastic run continues (with a little help from the ref)

In the past I may have been less than complimentary about the referees in Ligue 1, but I think I've finally found one I like.

Antony Gautier, you and your bald head are welcome back at the Parc-des-Princes any time as far as I'm concerned. It was Gautier's controversial decision to dismiss Rod Fanni that set Paris Saint-Germain on the way to a comfortable victory over Marseille in last night's Coupe de la Ligue last-16 clash.

It should be be said that prior to Mssr Gautier's intervention, PSG were already well on top in the match. Carlo Ancelotti made seven changes, including first starts of the season for Guillaume Hoarau and Zoumana Camara, and saw his side begin the match with an intensity which has perhaps been lacking in recent matches.

Javier Pastore in particular appeared to be up for the coupe, winning several 50/50 tackles that you might normally expect him to duck out of. Christophe Jallet and Blaise Matuidi provided energetic support, while up front Jeremy Menez's pace caused the visiting defence problems all night.

Matthieu Bodmer should have opened the scoring when he latched onto Thiago Silva's knock down, but could only blaze the ball over the bar from six yards out. Shortly afterwards, a rare break from the visitors saw the lively Matthieu Valbeuna find space on the edge of the box and curl a shot just wide of the post.

Then, in the 28th minute, came the decisive moment. Maxwell flighted a ball over the top which caught out the OM backline, allowing Hoarau to get goal side of Fanni, who tugged him back. The contact started outside the box, and continued into it, and Mr Gautier immediately pointed to the spot, before giving the incredulous Fanni his marching orders.

On first look I thought it was a penalty, but not a red card, as Nicolas N'Koulou could conceivably have got across to cover for his colleague. On closer inspection you could probably make a case for the opposite to be true, as the offence definitely started outside the box. Either way, the cumulative decision was as bad as Jordan Ayew's haircut. Thiago Silva stepped up to take the penalty, and sent Steve Mandanda the wrong way to open the scoring.

In fairness to OM, they regrouped well and kept PSG at arm's length until half-time. But any hopes the visitors had of winning a fourth successive Coupe de la Ligue evaporated ten minutes into the second half. Pastore dinked a beautiful pass over the defence for Jezza Menezza, who controlled beautifully with the outside of his boot before producing an emphatic finish high past Mandanda.

PSG spent the rest of the match keeping the ball and giving game-time to some squad members who had been gathering dust at the back of the cupboard. Siaka Tiene and Peguy Luyindula were both introduced in the closing stages, and almost linked up for an amusing break-away goal, but Tiene was flagged offside as he was about to pull the trigger. A Tiene goal would surely have been the ultimate insult.

Benoit Cheyrou hit the post late on for Marseille, who will no doubt be feeling aggrieved this morning about the red card/penalty incident. But the fact remains that even with 11 men, their Andre-Pierre Gignac-less attack looked toothless - the dashing Valbeuna aside.

Next up in the cup for PSG are St Etienne. We will travel to the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on either November 27 or 28.

Man of the Match: Javier Pastore - El Flaco produced the kind of performance we need to see from him on a more regular basis.


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