Paris Saint-Germain 1-2 Montpellier
1970 PSG Man Of The Match: Javier Pastore
You can still hear the screech from the MHSC bench as referee Olivier Thual blew the final whistle on one of the shocks of the season. Montpellier beating Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes did a number of things. One; grabbed their first win at the Parc in four years. Two; brought to a halt this incredible unbeaten run at home we had of 23 games which stretched back to the fall of 2012. Three; shattered a realistic dream of lifting a domestic treble. And four; although I never felt it was possible, quash the talk of the quadruple.
Hindsight is one of the biggest words in football. It really is. We had chances to go through but it was one of those nights. There were instances where we should have killed the game off but we were contributors to our own downfall to be honest. Taking nothing away from the winners though, it is a fairy-tale for them and their loyal supporters. They have not had too much to cheer about of late but this will keep them sitting on cloud nine for a good while at least.
Laurent Blanc rang the changes which was nothing unusual. Zlatan Ibrahimovic started on the bench, allowing Edinson Cavani to be the lone man up top, supported by Jeremy Menez and Lucas Moura. Javier Pastore was brought back into midfield and was given a free role at times to come inside as well as interchange with Blaise Matuidi and Marco Verratti.
That midfield in particular was a treat in the first-half. Paris absolutely bossed the game but were sucker punched, partly down to some slack goalkeeping from Nicolas Douchez. Former PSG left-back Siaka Tiene drifted a ball in from a freekick and Daniel Congre headed into an empty net which was completely against the run of play. To make matters worse, Lucas Digne had a goal wrongfully disallowed for offside not too long before that.
Those first 20 minutes we totally dominated and that goal knocked us a little. Thankfully Cavani equalised 10 minutes later in what an outstanding move. Matuidi found Pastore who split La Paillade’s defence in two with a first time pass for Digne who subsequently squared for El Matador to tap home.
Pastore, who played a part in the goal, absolutely bossed that first-half. He was exceptional. 2014 is turning out to be a good year for him. He seems to be rejuvenated, playing with confidence at long last and this free role he seems to have at times suits him down to the ground. His link-up play at times was flawless, reminiscent of those early days in Paris. Long may it continue!
After Cavani equalised, he showed that he is human after all when he missed an open goal at the back post. Unthinkable really but at the time that miss did not seem too costly as Les Parisiens looked certain to score at some point.
Something changed though after the interval. We did not come out the same team. That intensity had diminished, we seemed to be resting on our laurels a little and not too many chances were created. Cavani produced some superb centre-forward play by getting the ball to feet, using his upper body strength to swivel and shoot but was denied by the foot of Laurent Pionnier. It turned out to be a match winning save because with 20 minutes to go Victor Montano headed home from a Remy Cabella corner to stun the Parc des Princes. We lacked a physical presence from defending set-plays and I just wonder had Alex been in defence, would we have been undone by those two set-pieces for the goals?
We had a couple of half chances to get back on level terms, notably Ibra’s effort at the near post which went agonisingly close but it was not enough. We shot ourselves in the foot but on another day, we could have scored three of four. Bar the concession of the goal in the first-half, the performance was not too far from faultless. But as I said, after the break, we were not the same team and maybe fatigue played a part due to the fixture congestion? Nevertheless, it is a big test of character for the lads who now need to focus on the weekend against Guingamp and I am sure they will bounce back.
It is disappointing but we are top of the league, in a cup semi-final and the Champions League clash with Bayer Leverkusen just round the corner. We will come again!