Arras Football Association 3-4 PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN
1970 PSG Man Of The Match: Ezequiel Lavezzi
Paris Saint-Germain made hard work of it but in the end they overcame a determined Arras side who sprinkled a little magic of their own in the Coupe de France.
With holders Olympique Lyonnais going out to lowly opposition earlier in the day, the hosts had Les Parisiens sweating at one point, searching for a goal that would have resulted in extra-time. In the end it was not be and thankfully an Ezequiel Lavezzi brace as well as strikes from Blaise Matuidi and Zoumana Camara were enough to send us into the last-32.
We knew beforehand the big hitters such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva were being rested. The spine of the team altered dramatically with their absence along with Thiago Motta and Salvatore Sirigu. Camara and Mamadou Sakho reunited in the centre of defence, Marco Verratti came back into the fray partnering Clement Chantome in centre-midfield and Kevin Gameiro worked in tandem with Lavezzi up top.
The first 10 minutes it looked as if we would rack up a cricket score. Lavezzi opened the scoring early on. Javier Pastore bore through the middle before diligently lifting the ball through for his Argentine compatriot to lob over Gregory Crombez.
Matuidi made it 2-0 within 10 minutes. Verratti picked out Maxwell down the left who then pulled it back to slide home. It was like a training game at times.
Then, like PSG do on so many occasions, they took their foot of the gas and allowed the hosts back into it. Failing to deal with a freekick allowed Mustapha Ait Bouhou to find the net.
Camara of all people then made it 3-1 five minutes before the break pouncing on the rebound after Crombez fumbled Bodmer’s effort. Bodmer had come on for Matuidi who picked up a knock during the game. The midfielder confirmed afterwards that it is not as bad as first feared – thankfully.
After the interval and dominating the early sparring we let our guard down again. Sebastien Bernard down the left – who was arguably the best player on the pitch – produced a magnificent ball towards the back-post for Arnaud Despres who eluded Camara to score.
Lavezzi restored order again to tuck in the ball from two-yards after Gameiro lobbed the keeper but a stunner from Bernard in the 81st minute set up a grand stand finish.
The minnows finished the stronger and had us sweating at the back as they sought that elusive equaliser. Gameiro even went into the corner to waste time. That was how much they had us worried.
In the end we held on in what was a fascinating encounter. We will now face Toulouse in the third week of January at home in the last-32.