Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Olympiacos 1-4 PSG: Greeks cornered by Motta and Co

Who says lightning doesn’t strike twice?

Last season, Paris Saint-Germain began their Champions League campaign with a 4-1 win that featured a debut goal from a Brazilian centre-back. Fast forward 12 months and the same thing has happened again.

This year the opponents were Olympiacos, not Dynamo Kiev, and the debutant was Marquinhos not Thiago Silva, but the result and score-line remained happily unchanged. The only difference from last term is that this time we were away from home, making the win arguably more impressive.

That said, the team’s performance did not quite match the swashbuckling destruction of Kiev, but boss Laurent Blanc was still a happy man afterwards.

"It was a match of two halves,” he said. “We made too many mistakes in the first half, mostly because Olympiacos put a lot of intensity and pressure into their game in the early stages. In the second half, we found a certain balance and, as a team, we were a lot better. The Greek side also tired after a very energetic opening period."

Indeed, it was hard to see PSG taking anything from the game after an opening 30 minutes completely dominated by the home side. Vladimir Weiss gave us warning of what was to come inside the first minute when he smashed a powerful shot against the crossbar, and soon afterwards David Fuster picked up a half clear corner and struck a low shot which rebounded out off the inside of the post.

But then on 19 minutes we took the lead with a goal that couldn’t have been more against the run of play if we had been playing against a team called Athletico Run-of-Play. Matuidi seized possession and found Zlatan, who played an inch-perfect through ball for Maxwell, who had gone on a maraud and found himself inside the opposition penalty area. The Brazilian calmly scooped the ball over the on-rushing goalkeeper to present Edinson Cavani with a simple finish. Matadors don’t miss open goals, 0-1.

Olympiacos soon resumed their dominance, with the tricky Weiss proving to be their chief threat. It was no surprise when he notched the equaliser, hurdling a Maxwell challenge before nut-megging Marquinhos, beating the exposed Thiago Silva and shooting past Sirigu. Golazo. 1-1.

The match calmed down a bit as half-time approached, and after the break things changed dramatically. PSG controlled the tempo as Olympiacos seemed to run out of steam, and Weiss became a peripheral figure. Helpfully, the home side also completely forgot how to defend corners.

Cavani had gone close with a low shot before we regained the lead in the 68th minute. Substitute Ezequiel Lavezzi’s corner found Thiago Motta, who had got away from his marker Samaris to head unchallenged past Roberto Jimenez. Five minutes later, the exact same thing occurred; Lavezzi corner, Motta header, boom. 3-1 and game over.

"I wasn't expecting the goals,” said non-psychic Olympiacos boss Michel. “If you watched them, you might rush to blame Samaris, but I won't. He had a great match in the first half and the way the game unfolded was very cruel on the lad. I'm to blame for the goals because I told the players who to mark.”

Marquinhos, who grew into the game after a shaky first half, added a fourth just before the end, the defender again finding space in the box from a corner to flick his header into the net. He looked pleased. In between times Zlatan had seen his penalty saved by Jiminez, who also managed to blocked the Swede’s attempt to force in the rebound. He did not look pleased.

While the score-line flattered PSG, we definitely deserved the points, and it’s good to get this season’s campaign off to a convincing start. On a night where the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United won big, Blanc’s men have put a marker down that they mean business too.

Man of the Match: Thiago Motta – Two goals and an assist for the Brazilian Italian, who also helped PSG dominate possession for much of the game.


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