Monday, 28 October 2013

Saint-Etienne 2-2 PSG: Matuidi's late intervention saves heavy-legged Parisiens

Last season, Saint-Etienne came back from 2-0 down to claim a draw with Paris Saint-Germain in our match at the Stade Geoffrey-Guichard.

This year the roles were reversed, with PSG recovering from a two-goal deficit to leave ‘The Cauldron’ with a point thanks to Big Bad Blaise Matuidi’s last-gasp equaliser against his former club.

"The legs were heavy, and the heads weren't clear either,” said Laurent Blanc, who perhaps should have dispensed some alka-seltzer during his pre-match team-talk.

“I thought four days' recovery [after the Champions League game in Anderlecht] would be enough. But if PSG weren't good it's also because of Saint-Etienne.

“We'd already shown our unity and tenacity at Marseille, and we'll need to have that because not every game will be as easy as the one at Anderlecht or against Benfica. Those are qualities you need to be a great team."

PSG are now unbeaten in open play in 30 matches in all competitions, a run which stretches back to the defeat to Reims last March.

Last night was probably the first time this season where this impressive record looked seriously under threat; we enjoyed plenty of possession, but most of it was in front of the ASSE back four, and for the first hour of the match we rarely hit the kind of tempo which was going to cause Christophe Galtier’s men problems. And at the back, sloppy passing and a lack of communication characterised our play, with mistakes leading to both the Saint-Etienne goals.

Brandao had already gone close when Benjamin Corgnet netted the first goal in the 18th minute. Marquinhos completely miskicked as he attempted to clear a ball in from the right, and Romain Hamouma was able to intercept and pass to Corgnet, who smashed it into the net beyond the reach of the helpless Salvatore Sirigu. Quelle merde, 1-0.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who expected a PSG onslaught to follow this goal, but it never came. Ibra and Cavani were quiet as a pair of agoraphobic church mice, and Lavezzi ran around a lot to no great effect.

Indeed, Sainte could have added to their lead when Fabien Lemoine’s dipping effort beat Sirigu but came back off the cross bar.

PSG started the second half with more vigour, with Ibra driving a low free kick through the wall and just wide, and then winning a header from a Maxwell cross to find Thiago Motta, only for the midfielder to get his feet in a muddle as he was about to shoot.

And then we pressed the self-destruct button again. Sirigu's punch of Yohan Mollo’s cross was a weak one, but Marquinhos should still have had ample time to clear the danger. Sadly the young Brazilian could only kick the ball into the back of Motta, and it rebounded to Hamouma, who had the simple task of lifting the a shot into the unguarded goal, with Sirigu still out of position. Doubler merde, 2-0.

At this point PSG’s unbeaten record looked about as secure as a young tree wobbling about in the face of Storm St Jude, but they were handed a lifeline in the 59th minute when Lemoine was dismissed. Having been shown a yellow card in the first half for a cynical pull back of Lavezzi, Lemoine went in for a clumsy tackle on the same player and picked up a second booking. The midfielder stayed down following the challenge having sustained a cut to the head, but even the blood pouring from his skull could not save him from an early bath.

Blanc threw on Lucas Moura and Jeremy Menez, and Jezza’s direct running certainly gave us an added dimension. Crucially, we pulled one back within three minutes of the red card; a well-worked short corner routine saw Verratti find Maxwell, who got to the byline and delivered a low cross which was touched home by Cavani at the near post. 2-1.

Keeper Stephane Ruffier saved from Moura, while a goal-bound effort from Ibra was deflected wide, but PSG appeared to have run out of time when Matuidi intervened: four minutes of stoppage time had elapsed when the midfielder hoisted a ball into the box which went through Zlatan, Cavani and Ruffier and somehow found its way into the net. It initially looked as though El Matador had got a crucial touch, but replays showed it was Matuidi’s goal, 2-2.

All in all not PSG’s finest hour, but at least we got the point which keeps us ahead of Monaco on goal difference. Now our poor, weary, players have a Champions League-free week to rest their tired little legs before Friday’s meeting with Lorient at the Parc des Princes. Everybody say ahhhhh.

Man of the Match: Blaise Matuidi - Kept going for 90 minutes and was rewarded with the equaliser.


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