Saint-Etienne 2-2 Paris Saint-Germain
1970 PSG Man Of The Match: Blaise Matuidi
For a good hour or so last night it looked as if Saint-Etienne would be our nemesis once again. Just as they did back last November when they knocked us out of the last-eight of the Coupe de la Ligue, our incredible 29 game unbeaten run (from open play) looked in serious jeopardy. Trailing 2-0 with just over 20 minutes remaining, thankfully the champions stepped up, AGAIN!
It is an old cliché but performances like last night are the hallmark of champions. We did not play anywhere near our best but we still mustered the desire to salvage something which looked highly improbable for large quantities of the game. ASSE always give us a run for our money and in the rowdy Stade Geoffroy Guichard and it looked like it would be Les Verts’ night.
You expect nothing less from a Christophe Galtier side either. They were energetic, persistent and importantly they forced us to make errors. Marquinhos, who has been flawless since he got himself into the team made an uncharacteristic mistake, failing to clear his lines allowing Romain Hamouma to tee-up Benjamin Corgnet for a stunning long range finish. It had Salvatore Sirigu static as the Italian could only admire the beauty of the strike.
Brandao’s movement was given us problems, his imposing figure found space on a number of occasions but failed to capitalise. Fabien Lemoine also made a nuisance of himself and nearly scored one of the goals of the season only to be denied by the crossbar.
The hosts fully deserved their lead at the break and six minutes into the second-half, we were the contributors to our own downfall again. Sirigu came out for a cross which really he should have left for Alex who seemed to have it covered. The Italian dropped the ball, landed awkwardly in the process and for some reason Marquinhos kicked the ball of Thiago Motta’s calf which allowed Hamouma to tap into an empty net.
There is no doubt, Lemoine’s dismissal played a major part in our revival. This allowed us to press more as ASSE sat deep. Edinson Cavani started the recovery. He was on hand in the box to tap in Maxwell’s ball across goal in the 68th minute.
From then on in we did not pepper the Saint-Etienne box by any means. To be honest, they looked comfortable. But we were dealt a huge slice of luck in injury time as Blaise Matuidi’s hopeful ball into the box eluded everyone, including goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier to make it 2-2. The celebrations at the end told the story, reaffirming the feel good factor in the camp at the moment.
It is a huge result. Not only does it put us back on top ahead of Monaco on goal difference, the attitude of the players must be applauded. They could easily have rested on their laurels but to come back against a good outfit like that (with 10-men or not) is commendable. Especially after a European fixture as well.
Laurent Blanc’s magic continues.