Stade de Reims 2-2 Paris Saint-Germain
1970 PSG Man Of The Match: Javier Pastore
The opening game of the season was a fantastic advert for Ligue 1. In a frenetic affair between ourselves and Stade de Reims, the game swung one way and then the other in a match that will whet the appetite for the forthcoming fixtures this weekend. Yet again, it is another win-less opening day for the champions but one where positives can be taken and for the jitters to be assessed.
Coach Laurent Blanc sprung a huge surprise by naming the captain Thiago Silva in the starting line-up. Having only returned to training on Tuesday, this news was astounding. The risk the coach took by fielding a player straight into a competitive game, having played no pre-season football, was huge. Can you imagine if TS had pulled up injured? It took a lot of bottle for the gaffer to do that but it shows that he does not trust the aging legs of Zoumana Camara. With Marquinhos also starting, maybe Blanc wanted that calming influence of his compatriot alongside him. There were some defensive frailties however and I will get onto that.
As for the rest of the team it was pretty much unchanged from the one that beat Guingamp in Beijing last weekend. Lucas Moura came in for Jean-Christophe Bahebeck. This was surprising to me, I felt the Frenchman warranted a start after his performances in the past month but Blanc felt that the new number seven was ready. Javier Pastore continued in the midfield trio alongside Thiago Motta and Marco Verratti.
It did not take long for Les Parisiens to get up and running, especially Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The big man opened the scoring in the seventh minute after latching onto a delicately poised pass by Pastore who waited for the Swede to run into space before threading him the ball and subsequently finished with aplomb.
That looked as if it would open the floodgates as PSG continued to pile forward. Reims were making unnecessary mistakes by giving the ball away in cheap areas and they should have been 2-0 down when Lucas Moura bore in towards goal. The Brazilian only had to square the ball to an unmarked Zlatan who would have had an open goal but instead he tried to round the goalkeeper Johny Placide and fluffed his lines to the dismay of everyone affiliated with the champions. It was an extremely selfish act I felt and an example of his naivety. I cannot help but wonder had Bahebeck been in that situation, he would have done the right thing with the assist.
Amazingly after that, Marco Verratti got in behind the SDR defence, laid it on a plate for Ibrahimovic who had a gaping goal in front of him but remarkably he rattled the post to the delirium of the Stade Auguste-Delaune.
To make things even more surreal, we were awarded a penalty (which was soft in truth) when Mickael Tacalfred made contact with Ibra in the 18-yard box. The Swede stepped up but his effort was saved by Placide.
The opening 20 minutes were sheer pandemonium. But, just to stick the knife in having squandered the opportunity to be two, three-nil up, the hosts equalised via Prince Oniangue who tapped in a Diego delivery from a freekick. He got in ahead of Gregory Van der Wiel but credit to Diego whose delivery was sublime.
Over 10 minutes later, the former European Cup finalists were ahead. This is where PSG’s defence showed weakness. Anotoine Deveaux played the ball to Gaetan Charbonnier who was being jockeyed by Pastore. Silva came across to cover but strangely, Marquinhos did exactly the same thing. So both centre-backs were attracted to the ball, allowing Deveaux the space to run into as he got it back and finished past a helpless Sirigu. It was certainly a well worked goal but Marquinhos made it a whole lot easier with his poor judgment.
After the interval, we absolutely bossed possession. Diego brought out an acrobatic save from Sirigu shortly into the second-half but that was about as much the Italian had to do as he was a mere spectator for much of the half.
Pastore and Lucas Digne’s interplay on the left-hand side was evident. There seems to be a real understanding between the two of them which I think is a major positive. When you see chemistry like that it certainly bodes well for the team. El Flaco was excellent and for me, man of the match. We altered to a 4-2-3-1 with him out on the left but cutting inside. He has played this role many a time during his three years at the club but just like last weekend, he had another good outing.
Thankfully Ibra came to the rescue with the equaliser although it was a stroke of good fortune. He tried to dink the ball back across goal for Cavani but instead it deviated towards goal, wrong-footing the goalkeeper who could not keep it out. It looked superb, but in no way did Ibra intend to score.
We pressed for a winner and in stoppage time Mandi cleared efforts of the line from Clement Chantome and Ibra to deny us all three points. In the end though, we could not have too many complaints. We had chances to put the game to bed within the first 20 minutes but you have to give credit to Jean-Luc Vasseur’s men who made more than a fist of it. His inaugural league game in charge of the club was certainly a memorable one.
As for ourselves, the squad travel to Naples now for a friendly on Monday against Napoli. It is a good chance to give the likes of David Luiz, Maxwell, Blaise Matuidi, Yohan Cabaye and Ezequiel Lavezzi game time ahead of the first home game of the season against Bastia next weekend.
All in all, a decent point in the end but there is plenty to improve upon.