PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN 2-2 Montpellier HSC
Paris Saint-Germain needed a late equaliser from Guillaume Hoarau to keep them at the top of the table after drawing 2-2 with title rivals Montpellier.
Les Parisiens had gone in front via a thunderbolt by Alex but nearly succumbed to defeat after John Utaka put the visitors into the lead with just under 10 minutes remaining.
It was evident from the makeover given to the stadium beforehand that the club knew full well that the eyes of the world were indeed intrigued at was taking place in the capital. Despite the new pitch not being aesthetically pleasing – which was laid during the week – it did not hinder the football on show.
Rene Girard’s men started ever so brightly, piling on the pressure in the early sparring. Left-back Henri Bedimo skipped down the left-hand side with ease before playing a teasing ball towards the back post which just missed Olivier Giroud who was heavily marked. Minutes later, one of the stars of the season Younes Belhanda sliced the Parisian backline with his through ball for John Utaka who cut inside from the left and stung the palms of Salvatore Sirigu. The Italian then had to smother the rebound from Giroud who did not react quickly enough to get a cleaner connection.
In truth, the away side looked the sharper and were keeping possession superbly. Their interplay was excellent and the pace of Utaka down the left was giving Milan Bisevac – playing as a makeshift right-back – problems.
In the 22nd minute, PSG finally unhinged the MHSC defence. Nene picked the ball up just outside the 18-yard box and slipped in Kevin Gameiro whose snap shot was parried away by Geoffrey Jourdren. Then on the half-hour mark Gameiro squandered an excellent chance after latching onto Jeremy Menez’s ball in behind the defence but blazed it over the bar with a first-time shot.
With the game so evenly poised, it needed something special to break the deadlock and centre-back Alex certainly did that in the 41st minute. Standing at a dead ball situation at nearly 30 yards out, compatriot Nene teed up the colossal defender who smashed it past a flatfooted Jourdren who was nothing more than a mere spectator. The ball swerved from left to right giving him no chance, sending the Parisian faithful into raptures.
Montpellier’s effort did not deteriorate and they netted the equaliser right on the stroke of half-time thanks to Belhanda. Giroud played the ball out wide to 34-year-old Hilton who crossed in for the Moroccan maestro to head home past Sirigu who could only get a hand to it. The men in white silenced the Parc as Tony Chapron blew for half-time. On the basis of their play however, their goal was dually deserved.
After the interval Maxwell came within a whisker at putting Carlo Ancelotti’s side back in front. With not much else occurring towards the hour mark, the Coach brought on Hoarau in place of Gameiro in a like for like change. Javier Pastore also made his long awaited return to the roar of the Parisian public and found himself involved in the play, nearly getting on the scoresheet as he tried to dink the ball home from close range but missed the target.
The visitors were still proving to be a real threat on the counter-attack, giving the home side some anxious moments. The game changed when Alex had to come off due to injury and was replaced by Diego Lugano. The instability at the back encouraged Girard’s men and they got their reward by taking the lead in the 82nd minute thanks to former Portsmouth man John Utaka. Giroud’s cross found the head of the Nigerian who was completely unmarked and directed it past Sirigu. Lugano had failed to pick up his man and could only watch helplessly as the ball rustled the net.
A despondent Parc des Princes found it hard to galvanise themselves but thankfully the players responded. In the 88th minute they poured forward and after some exceptional trickery by Menez down the left he played the ball across goal for Hoarau to tap home to the sheer relief of everyone affiliated to the club. Bedimo’s trailing leg on the line was not enough to prevent the ball from going in.
The club remains at the summit of Ligue 1 but it could have been so different had Hoarau not bagged the equaliser. Both teams matched each other in more or less every department, producing a sterling game of football – a credit to Ligue 1 as a whole.
Onwards and upwards for both clubs now as the title race is as alive as ever. PSG are away to Olympique Lyonnais next week as Montpellier host a resurgent Bordeaux side.