Monday, 19 August 2013

PSG 1-1 Ajaccio: Cavani leaves it late to beat amazing Ochoa

Football and hyperbole tend to go hand-in-hand, witness the resumption of the GREATEST LEAGUE IN THE WORLD this weekend.

But while Sky Sports were busy drumming up EXCITEMENT about AMAZING MATCHES like, er, Chelsea strolling to victory against Hull and Spurs edging out Crystal Palace, Ligue 1 fans were treated to one of the most entertaining games of football you're likely to see this year. And I'm not exaggerating.

Ajaccio clung on for a point against Paris Saint-Germain last night at the Parc des Princes with a logic-defying rear-guard action involving some great last-ditch defending, some phenomenal goalkeeping from Guillermo Ochoa and, it has to be said, more than a little bit of luck.

"Even if we didn't start well nobody can say that was played poorly in the first half," said Laurent Blanc, who must have been fearing for his job until Edinson Cavani smashes in a late leveller.

"Teams try to make the most of our slow starts to games because they've noticed our difficulties in getting going. The second half was more encouraging. We were hoping not to fall too far behind our main rivals and this match was really disappointing because we deserved to win it."

Even the most die-hard of Marseille fans would struggle to disagree with Blanc's assessment. Rarely have I seen such a one-sided contest between two teams in the same league; PSG had 80 per cent of the ball, completed 690 passes to their opponents 135, and fired in 36 shots to Ajaccio's one.

Lies, lies and damn statistics (Pic: @der_footix)
But if you're only going to have one shot, you might as well make it a good one, and Benoit Pedretti's ninth minute effort was certainly that, a curling effort from 20 yards that beat Salvatore Sirigu and nestled in the top corner.

To say that Fabrizio Ravinelli's side parked the bus after that would be an understatement. It would be more accurate to say that they hijacked the entire fleet of RATP vehicles that serve the Paris area and lined them up side-by-side in the goalmouth. And when Ibra, Cavani and co did find a way to weave between the phalanx of vehicles, in Ochoa they faced a goalkeeper in the form of his life.

The Mexican relishes the big occasion, having kept two clean sheets against PSG last season, but in the first half was only forced into one save of note, a diving effort to block a shot from Maxwell. That's not to say PSG weren't creating chances, with Ibra shooting just wide after some lovely chest control to set up the chance, and then planting a header over the bar from eight yards. Ex-Wolves man Ronald Zubar almost shinned in an amusing own-goal, but saw the ball spin wide of the post.

We functioned fairly well as an attacking unit, with Thiago Motta having one of his best games for ages, Lucas looking lively and Big Bad Blaise Matuidi providing his usual dose of energy in the centre. There were also signs that the Zlavani partnership, paired up front for the first time, will be a fruitful one, with several promising link-ups stopped by a well-timed tackle or a border-line offside call.

So 0-1 at half-time, but plenty of reasons for the PSG fans to be cheerful. It was after the break that shit got really weird.

Cavani headed over from a Lucas cross, then saw a powerful shot parried away by Ochoa. From the resulting corner, Alex's header was cleared off the line, then Thiago Silva got involved, arriving at the back post to meet a free kick but seeing his goalbound header stopped by Ochoa's foot.

With nothing to do at the back, Silva spent most of the second half playing as an auxiliary midfielder. This was particularly welcome after Matuidi was forced to leave the field with blood pouring from his head following a nasty looking clash with a defender. Get well soon BBBlaise.

Anyway, Ibra saw another effort blocked by the speedy Ochoa, who raced off his line as the Swede looked set to pounce, while Christophe Jallet found space in the box but pulled a shot tamely wide. When Silva finally beat Ochoa, with a header from a corner, it came crashing back off the cross-bar. Merde.

The break-through finally came with four minutes remaining. Substitute Hervin Ongenda picked out Cavani on the edge of the area, and he made a bit of space for himself before dispatching a powerful shot into the top corner. Bienvenue El Matador, 1-1.

But with the crowd sensing there was time for a winner, PSG were unable to apply the coup des grace. Another sub, Marco Verratti, had three chances fall his way, but was denied twice by Ochoa and shot wide with what was the last kick of the game. Silva's thunderous effort came back off the bar, and the third replacement, Ezequiel Lavezzi, saw penalty appeals waved away after he went down under Bonnart's shove.

So 1-1 it finished, meaning PSG have just two points on the board from their opening two matches. But despite this, and the perfect starts made by OM, OL, Monaco and Saint Etienne, it's not time to hit the panic-button just yet. Results like this happen from time-to-time, we need to take the positives and move on to next Sunday evening's match against newly promoted Nantes.

Man of the Match: Thiago Motta: Obviously Ochoa was the game's outstanding player, but from a PSG perspective Motta kept us ticking over with some probing passes.


Unknown said...

Awesome post Matt, this was one of the weirdest games ever, but a great one too. These stats are unlikely to be repeated. As a PSG fan I'm disappointed, but there is still something to be said about how Ajaccio nuck in one, then parked it for dear life throughout, right till the last minute - even escaping a penalty at 90 minutes. What are the odds?
Should PSG get their act together then there will be many upsets in Ligue 1 and CL. The shots on target is already a league record.
BTW, you're right - Ligue 1 is the best league right now. La Liga is a 2 horse show, EPL is a glorified circle-jerk, in Ligue 1 we actually have many contenders not only for the title, but for a CL.
Keep up the blog for us outside France who are bored titless watching the same old same old

Anonymous said...

While it's disappointing to have dropped 4 points to start the season, I think if PSG continue to play like they did against Ajaccio we will have a good season ahead of us. Had PSG's finishing been a little sharper and Ochoa been a little less stellar we could have easily ran up the score.

Matthew Gooding said...

Thanks for the kind words Unknown, Ligue 1 is certainly where it’s at this season. You’re right, Ajaccio deserve credit for their defending, amazing that they managed to concentrate for so long under so much pressure. That, and Ochoa’s brilliance, meant they earned the luck they had on a couple of occasions.

Psgfnews – Yeah, it’s just one of those freak results that happens, I’m not worried at all at this stage. Lots of positives to take from that performance, apart from scoreline of course!

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