Thursday, 18 April 2013

Evian 1-1 PSG (4-1 pens): Double dreams dashed as poor PSG pay the penalty

Apparently while I was on holiday some team called Paris Saint-Germain came through two matches against Barcelona, and were considered by many observers to be unlucky to lose.

I can only assume this must have been another PSG, as since I've been back the team has looked a long way short of world-beating form.

After squeezing past Troyes on Saturday, they were knocked out of the Coupe de France on penalties last night, going down 4-1 on spot-kicks to Evian after the match had ended 1-1.

"You can lose a game but tonight we didn't show any character," RAGED a FURIOUS Carlo Ancelotti afterwards. "We were a bit full of ourselves and misplaced too many passes, lost the ball too easily. Tonight was a disaster and our worst match of the season.

"The attitude of the team wasn't right. Some players played for themselves and tried difficult things. I'm angry with the whole team. When the team is focused we've managed to play great games, like against Barcelona.

"Evian's attitude was good and they deserve to be in the semi-finals. If your team doesn't show the right attitude then it's the coach's fault."

So many articles have been written about PSG's suspect attitude this season that it could almost be a new sub-section of sporting literature, but sadly the same pattern keeps repeating itself time-and-time again. In some matches an early goal has settled us down, but more often than not the players just take their foot off the gas and expect to be able to stroll through the rest of the game.

That was certainly the case last night after Javier Pastore's stunning tenth minute opener. David Beckham sprayed a lovely pass out wide to Christophe Jallet, who has time and space to pick out Pastore on the edge of the box. El Flaco took a touch to flick the ball up before wellying it past Bertrand Laquait.

So far so good then; but things soon started going downhill faster than Franz Klammer on Pro-Plus. It soon became apparent that Beckham was able to contribute little other than some decent corners and odd long diagonal to Jallet, and with his central midfield partner Thiago Motta not being particularly mobile either, PSG's back-line was left exposed on a number of occasions.

Stand-in stopper Nicolas Douchez saved twice in quick succession after poor passes from Pastore presented chances to Yannick Sagbo and Kevin Berigaud, and the ex-Rennes keeper made an even better save when he somehow diverted Mohamed Rabiu's powerful shot over the cross-bar.

PSG had chances of their own, mainly from Beckham's pinpoint set-pieces. One reached Thiago Silva, but his shot was saved by Laquait's legs, while another found Alex, whose header was blocked inside the six-yard box.

But it was the home side who ended an entertaining half with a deserved equaliser. Another sloppy ball from Pastore put Jallet in trouble, and he was robbed by two Evian players, allowing Sagbo to come away with the ball. His cross found Khlifa in the six-yard box, and he was never likely to miss.

The second half, and indeed the 30 minute extra time period, were quite low key by comparison. Zlatan Ibrahimovic came closest with a bobbling shot that hit the post, and in extra-time substitute Ezequiel Lavezzi had a close range effort turned away by the excellent Laquait.

In fact the most notable thing to happen in extra-time was the sending-off of Motta, who maintained his impressive record of being constantly injured or suspended when he needlessly booted Cedric Barbosa in the stomach and was shown a red card. Evian didn’t have time to take advantage, so to penalties we went.

Zlatan was up first, but struck his effort too close to Laquait, who pulled off a fairly routine save. Then after one of the water boys had slotted home his spot-kick, Thiago Silva strode forward but powered a shot against the cross-bar. Lavezzi converted his penalty, but by then the game was up and Barbosa beat Douchez to confirm Evian’s progress.

And so ended a frustrating night. It should be said that Ancelotti’s team selection didn’t help our cause – pairing Beckham and Motta in midfield was always going to be a recipe for disaster – but even so the players selected were more than capable of seeing off Evian. Our inability to perform when we go away to the league’s lesser lights remains a concern, and sadly Carletto doesn’t seem to be any closer to solving this problem than we was when he took over. The Ligue 1 title is in our grasp, and it’s annoying that we’ve thrown away the chance to make it a double in such pathetic fashion.

Man of the Match: Christophe Jallet – The roving right-back displayed the sort of energy that was conspicuous by its absence in other areas of the team.


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