Monday, 28 January 2013

PSG 1-0 LOSC Lille: La chance du Champions?

"The Luck of Champions?"

That's the question posed by the headline on the L'Equipe site this morning, after Paris Saint-Germain returned to the top of the Ligue 1 pile with a somewhat fortunate victory over Lille at the Parc-des-Princes.

After seeing the visitors hit the woodwork, have a seemingly legitimate goal ruled out for offside, and squander a number of promising positions, it's hard to argue with them, but there's still a long way to go; after all, it's only goal difference which keeps Les Rouges-et-Bleu ahead of Lyon.

"We were lucky today, but we haven't had it on other occasions," noted Salvatore Sirigu in his post-match interview. Having now broken the club record for Ligue 1 minutes without conceding, previously held by Bernard Lama, Sirigu probably feels he is entitled to the rub of the green, and the Italian's goal hasn't been breached since Valentin Eysseric's winner for Nice back on December 1. That result was the nadir of PSG's "crisis", when Ancelotti's future appeared to be less than certain. Great credit must go to the players and management for getting back on track, and we've taken 19 points from a possible 21 since the defeat at the Stade du Ray.

Our defensive solidity is all the more remarkable given that leaking stupid goals was our Achilles heel last term, particularly after Carletto took over. Thiago Silva's presence - current injury not withstanding - has definitely helped, but Sirigu, Christophe Jallet and Maxwell have also been steady performers, and Mamadou Sakho has, by and large, cut out the silly mistakes that crept into his game last season. Ibrahimovic's goals are often said to be the difference between us and the chasing pack, but with just 12 conceded in 22 matches, our stinginess at the other end of the pitch could be the decisive factor in the title race.

Lille are not the force they once were, and sport a large Eden Hazard-shaped hole in their attack. But Rudy Garcia's side still play decent possession football, with one-time PSG target Dimitri Payet orchestrating things in the final third.

PSG had the better of the early exchanges, Lucas Moura curling a shot wide and Jeremy Menez and Ezequiel Lavezzi almost breaking through on a couple of occasions. But when the early goal didn't arrive the momentum swung to the visitors. Alliterative forwards Ronny Rodelin and Marvin Martin shot wide from good positions, with Payet forcing Sirigu into a good diving save with a shot from outside the box.

The games most controversial moment came ten minutes before half time, when Rodelin headed in from Martin's corner, but saw his celebrations cut short by an offside flag. Replays showed that Nolan Roux was the offending player, but it's debatable whether a) the striker was offside, or b) if he was interfering with play. Either way, the goal was chalked off, and PSG went straight up the other end and hit the post thanks to Zlatan's bobbling shot.

In the second half things got a bit more open, with neither side defending with the discipline they showed in the first period. Jallet did well to slide in and block a cross/shot from Lucas Digne, while at the other end a similarly spectacular sliding challenge from Marko Basa denied Lavezzi as he bore down on goal.

The only goal came in the 69th minute courtesy of some poor defending from LOSC. Benoit Pedretti lost the ball to another substitute, Javier Pastore, who lofted a lovely pass over the top for Lavezzi to chase. The Argentine's cross was aimed at Ibra, but visiting keeper Elana dived out to block it, only succeeding in parrying the ball into the net off the body of defender Aurelien Chedjou. It was an unfortunate moment for Chedjou, but his horrendous, off-centre, blonde stripe hair cut means my sympathy is limited. Even Jezza wouldn't stoop that low. I don't think.

Lille weren't done though, and Payet spurned a glorious chance to equalise, shooting straight at Sirigu from 12 yards. Substitute Tuilio De Melo went even close from a similar position, beating Sirigu with a curling effort but seeing his shot hit the base of the upright and bounce clear. Phew.

Man of the Match: Salvatore Sirigu - PSG's record breaker had a fairly busy night, but kept his cool and dealt with everything that came his way.


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