COUPE DE LA LIGUE
AC Ajaccio 1-3 Paris Saint-Germain
1970 PSG Man Of The Match: Lucas Moura
Laurent Blanc cannot underestimate just how big that second 45 minutes was for himself and his team last night. After a more than average first-half where we headed into the break 1-0 down, our defence of the Coupe de la Ligue was petering out on a whim and intensifying the pressure after two straight defeats. Thankfully, we got our act together after a dressing down at half-time and managed to earn a 3-1 victory over Ligue 2’s Ajaccio which puts us into the last-eight.
Paris will not be lapping up any rave reviews this morning from the Parisian media but they got the job done – eventually. We do make life hard for ourselves but credit to the lads, they showed character when heads could have dropped. There were a host of marquee names missing, a dubious penalty was given against us too but they came back to register an important victory after a disappointing week.
Blanc completely reshaped the midfield. It was an all-French one with Clement Chantome, Adrien Rabiot and Yohan Cabaye who made his first start since returning from injury. David Luiz skippered the team and was part of a young back-four. Nicolas Douchez started his first game of the season in between the sticks. And up front Edinson Cavani played through the middle supported by Ezequiel Lavezzi and Lucas Moura.
As you would expect we dominated possession in the first-half. We did not conjure up a single meaningful chance though. Chantome had a clear sight on goal but completely miscued his volley and scuffed it wide. Literally, that was it in an attacking sense from our point of view. Lucas looked like the only player who was capable of making something happen. The rest of them were laboured.
ACA may be in the division below but they terrified us on the counter-attack. The Kenyan Dennis Oliech was an absolute menace. His pace gave Serge Aurier so many problems and unfortunately the Ivorian had an awful game. So many times he was caught out of position and this led to the scenario for the opening goal.
The home side totally exposed us on the break and when the ball came to Mouaad Madri whilst one on one with the right-back, he stuck out a leg and down he went. Referee Stephane Lannoy pointed to the spot but replays showed that the contact was minimal and outside the box. Nevertheless, we were a shambles defensively in the build-up to it. It should not have happened. Up stepped the veteran Johan Cavalli to put the Corsican side in front.
Oliech’s pace had us running scared. It really did! There was one instance when they could have gone 2-0 up had they been more clinical. At one point Chantome had to cynically hack down Marvin Diop on the half-way line otherwise they would have been in for a possible second.
We could not have played any worse really. There had to be an improvement in the second-half and thankfully there was. In the first minute Lavezzi’s delivery from a freekick hit the post but Aurier should have headed it in.
Eight minutes later, we were level via ‘El Matador’. The build-up was top draw as we played from the back, which led to Cabaye approaching the edge of the opposition box, passing to Lucas who diligently played the ball through to Cavani for a first-time finish. Edi was starved of service all night but took his chance superbly.
That settled us down. We needed that just to ease the anxiety more than anything.
10 minutes from time we took the lead via Aurier. Remarkable really as he had been PSG’s weak link all night yet he came up with a vital goal with his head from Jean-Christophe Bahebeck’s corner. Credit to him, he found the space and finished well.
Minutes later that man Lucas got in behind the defence and unselfishly played the ball to Bahebeck who slid it home to seal the win. As I said on Twitter after the game, LM is a talisman to this team now. He set the tone yet again and was man of the match for me.
This has now set-up – for the third season in a row – a meeting with Saint-Etienne at the Stade Geoffroy –Guichard in the quarter-final. Both clubs are on one win apiece; best of three then?
Special mention also to 20-year-old Jeremi Kimmakon who made his debut for Les Parisiens in the 85th minutes replacing Lucas.