Monday, 18 March 2013

Saint Etienne 2-2 PSG: Clerc's cracker earns Sainte share of spoils

"The referee told me to calm me down and I told him to do the same," said Zlatan Ibrahimovic of his post-match chat with referee Antony Gautier following yesterday's 2-2 draw between Paris Saint-Germain and Saint Etienne.

Ahh Ibra, that well-known voice of reason. As you can see from the picture below, it was lucky he was there to act as a calming presence and keep the FURIOUS ref under control, otherwise it might have all kicked off.

Zlatan and his team-mates were a bit mad after Saint Etienne rallied from 2-0 down to claim a point in a thrilling match at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard. Their main bone of contention was the equalising goal, finished exquisitely by full-back Francois Clerc, which came after a clear foul by our old Marseille chum Brandao on Thiago Silva. Given that PSG had earlier benefited from an extremely dubious penalty decision, it seemed a bit harsh to moan at the ref, who was even-handed in his shoddiness throughout.

With the squad hit by injuries, Carletto was forced to tinker with his line-up, and switched to a 4-3-3 formation, handing a first Ligue 1 start to David Beckham as the former England skipper returned to the scene of his WORLD CUP 98 NIGHT OF SHAME. I know it was the scene of his WORLD CUP 98 NIGHT OF SHAME because the commentator mentioned it roughly once every three minutes, which was nice.

PSG started well, and were rewarded for their early probing when Pastore opened the scoring in the ninth minute.Matuidi and Zlatan combined to play the ball through to El Flaco, and as Moustapha Sall made a hash of his attempted clearance, Pastore was allowed to stride on and dispatch a cute lofted finishing over the advancing Stephane Ruffier.

Pastore was having one of his better games, and was involved in the build-up to the second goal in the 19th minute, playing the ball through to Lavezzi, who sprinted clear down the left. Ruffier raced off his line to meet the Argentinean, who made sure he left a leg dangling and tumbled over the keeper's outstretched arm. Zlatan thumped the first penalty into the net, hard to Ruffier's right, but was forced to retake after Mr Gautier spotted some encroachment by Gregory van der Wiel. Undaunted, the Swede stepped up for a second time and found the exact same spot, albeit with a cheeky Panenka-esque chip as the ASSE keeper dived the wrong way.

Up to this point Saint Etienne had been poor, but Christophe Galtier's side are not unbeaten since the turn of the year for nothing, and started to crank up the pressure, with PSG content to sit on their lead and knock long balls in the direction of the increasingly isolated Zlatan.

Sainté's enterprise was rewarded six minutes before the break, when the previously quiet Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang escaped down the right and thumped in a doozy of a cross. Brandao raced in to meet it, but the final touch actually came off the statuesque Alex and bobbled past Sirigu for an own-goal. Alex again looked off-the-pace, and you have to wonder how anyone can possibly think it's a good idea to have the Brazilian's aging legs in the starting XI when there is a fully-fit Mamadou Sakho sat on the bench.

Anyway, the second half was pretty much all Saint Etienne, and I think Carletto should have changed things up before they got the chance to equalise. With Lavezzi having a quiet game, and none of the midfielders getting forward much, the match was crying out for the introduction of Kevin Gameiro, but he didn't get onto the field until after Clerc's 72nd minute leveller. Following a spell of penalty-box pinball, the ball span loose to the right-back, who pinged a shot into the top corner with the outside of his right-boot. A lovely finish from the ASSE skipper, 2-2.

There wasn't much by way of goalmouth action after that, aside from a couple of lunging blocks from PSG defenders, and two late Beckham free kicks which gave him a chance of REDEMPTION after his WORLD CUP 98 NIGHT OF SHAME. The first one, which actually favoured a left-footer, curled across the keeper and wide, and the second hit the wall. I guess DBeck can't write his own script all the time.

Of course it was disappointing to surrender a 2-0 lead in such predictable fashion, but it's still a good point given Saint Etienne's form and the fact that they've already beat us twice this season. And with Lyon losing 4-1 to Bastia, we've actually extended our lead at the top of Ligue 1 to five points going into the international break.

Man of the Match: Javier Pastore - Pastore used the ball well and showed an unusual willingness to get back and help out defensively.


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