Saint-Etienne 2-2 PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN
1970 PSG Man Of The Match: Thiago Silva
For nearly 40 minutes, Paris Saint-Germain were coasting in Saint-Etienne. We were up against a very good side, 2-0 up, playing some of our best stuff away from home this season and looking to go seven points clear. However that all unhinged when centre-back Alex put the ball into his own net which eventually succumbed us to surrendering our lead entirely. Les Verts fought back to earn a valiant point which boosts their Champions League aspirations and also puts us five points clear of Lyon at the top. The result was not without controversy however with unsavoury scenes involving David Beckham and Brandao at the end of the game.
Before kick-off, I would have taken a point all day long. The hosts have been in terrific form, nine games unbeaten in the league and they seem to have this hoodoo over us this season – now failing to beat them in three attempts. But, the disappointing aspect is that we were playing so well and fully merited our two goal lead, only to throw it away. The midfield was ever so assured with Blaise Matuidi, Clement Chantome and Beckham all keeping things ticking over nicely. We had good spells of possession, looked solid at the back and were a threat on the counter-attack despite the lack of pace (Lucas & Jeremy Menez out injured).
Our opening goal was fortuitous in the sense that ASSE defender Moustapha Sall failed to clear his lines which led to Javier Pastore dispossessing him and diligently dinking the ball over Stephane Ruffier. It was a confident finish, a piece of magic in fact, which was set up by Ibrahimovic.
Ten minutes later, Zlatan doubled the lead and bagged his 25th league goal of the season. Lavezzi was brought down by Ruffier, even though the contact was minimal at best, and Zlatan coolly chipped the ball down the middle to his absolute delirium. That was in fact his second penalty as a minute prior he was forced to retake it, which he had netted as well. Players were encroaching into the penalty area during his first attempt but thankfully kept his nerve – as if that was ever in doubt – to double the lead at the retake.
The game all changed however when Alex was caught napping and turned the ball into his own net when he really should have been on his toes to clear. That lapse in concentration proved to be a costly error as Christophe Galtier’s men discovered some new found belief.
After the interval, the men in green applied the pressure. Mathieu Bodmer, on loan from us, came on and very nearly equalised only to be denied by a heroic last ditch stretch by Beckham to divert the ball away from him. Still unsure as to why Bodmer was eligible to play.
Zlatan had a fantastic opportunity to wrap it up, latching onto a Jallet long ball but thrashed his first time effort wide. Moments later, Saint-Etienne were level thanks to a thunderbolt via right-back Francois Clerc which gave Salvatore Sirigu no chance. There was controversy however as Brandao appeared to go over the top of the ball in the build-up and caught Thiago Silva’s leg which looked ghastly on the replay. It enraged the Parisiens leading to a string of complaints at the full-time whistle from Zlatan and David Beckham in particular. Beckham was heavily involved in the fracas, partaking in a heated exchange with Brandao.
When Saint-Etienne equalised we failed to create any real clear cut chances. Beckham went agonisingly close in the dying embers from a freekick but that was about it.
All in all though, this is a great point. The Stade Geoffroy-Guichard is one of the hardest places to go in France and with Lyon losing to Brest, it has not been a bad few days. It is a bitter pill to swallow surrendering a two-goal lead, but the lead over Lyon is a good one.
Note: This was David Beckham’s first start in Ligue 1 and completed the full 90 minutes.