PSG Back On Top – But Only Just!

Paris Saint-Germain regained the lead at the top of the table after momentarily being knocked off by Marseille with a valiant 1-1 draw away to the champions Montpellier last night.

Les Parisiens knew a result in southern France would regain top spot but they had to do it the hard way. The draw puts us level on points with OM but also at the summit due to our better goal difference.

Stand in skipper Mamadou Sakho was sent off in the 10th minute after tussling with Gaetan Charbonnier as he bore in on goal. Referee Clement Turpin had no hesitation in brandishing the red in a game where he was happy to dish the cards out – nine in total.

Personally, I felt the decision was unjust. Yes, Sakho had a chunk of the player’s shirt but it was quite clear that he was not the last man as Thiago Silva was there to cover.

This had a bearing on Carlo Ancelotti’s tactics and he immediately brought off Guillaume Hoarau – who you have to feel sorry for having waited so long for a first-team start in the league – for centre-back Alex to shore things up. Not much changed in terms of the formation, still four at the back, three in midfield, with Ezequiel Lavezzi and Jeremy Menez the outlets up top as a pairing.

Even with 10-men, Montpellier did not really find the impetus to break us down in the first-half. Maxwell’s superb finesse chip gave the visitors the lead going into the break. A lovely worked goal, orchestrated by Menez – who was fantastic all night –laid the ball off to the Brazilian and let him do the rest from the edge of the box. It was his second goal in Parisien colours.

The hosts looked more of a threat after the interval and another top-class finish – this time from Remy Cabella, who was their best player on the night – got them back on level terms. But, their talisman in midfield Younes Belhanda stupidly picked up a second bookable offence for a deliberate handball resulting in the game being put on an equal footing once again. It really was an immature thing for him to do as MHSC were undoubtedly on top midway through the second-half.

We held on for a point, and an impressive one in truth. To play with a man short against the champions – despite their poor form this season – is no easy feat. Ancelotti can take a lot of credit as well because he acted on the situation with his tactics. He also immediately brought off Marco Verratti soon after he got booked in the second-half to avoid the possibility of going down to nine men.

So there are plenty of positives to take including the return of Thiago Motta who put in a sterling display. Not kicking a ball competitively since September, he played 76 minutes and did not look out of place. He told the club’s Official Site after the game that there is definite room for improvement from the team; “Even if we were playing a man down, we still had two or three chances to win the match. The sending off depends on the referee’s interpretation. Yes, he has to make a split second decision, but it certainly didn’t go our way. We haven’t won in two games. Now we have to analyse why. In my opinion, we can still improve in terms of our construction. That is the key to playing better football. Personally, after spending so much time on the sidelines, it’s never easy to come back. The important thing was to get back playing and training with the squad.”

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