Paris Saint-Germain awoke from their slumber this Sunday afternoon after going a goal down at home to Evian Thonon Gaillard and eventually registered a 4-2 victory. The champions love doing things the hard way and despite being dominant for the majority of the game, they still had the jitters.
Coach Laurent Blanc reinstated the senior full-backs in Gregory Van der Wiel and Maxwell who sat out the win in Saint-Etienne last Tuesday. Salvatore Sirigu also made his first appearance of 2015 after coming back to full fitness.
We started the game in an imposing manner and could have taken the lead via Thiago Silva whose header from a Lucas Moura corner sailed just over the bar. There was even an early penalty claim after Zlatan Ibrahimovic felt he was taken down in the box by Cedric Cambon. The Swede’s initial touch of the ball was heavy but he certainly had a case.
Moments later, 38-year-old Cedric Barbosa stunned the Parc des Princes to put l’ETG into the lead with an impressive strike from distance. This was sloppy from our point of view. It all stemmed from a throw-in near our corner flag which Maxwell took and as Ibra got his head to it we lost possession. The ball was nodded over the head of Thiago Motta which Barbosa subsequently struck. David Luiz could not close him down in time and Sirigu was caught off guard! The boos from the Parisian public rang loud and true!
Despite a cheeky attempt on goal by Daniel Wass with a disguised corner which was taken by Barbosa – where replays showed it was an illegal move – we began to get our act together. Three successive attempts by David Luiz, Zlatan and Lucas Moura were all denied by goalkeeper Benjamin Leroy. The 25-year-old’s experience in the top flight in France is minimal but he was playing like a seasoned veteran.
Thankfully, Luiz was on hand to beat him to equalise with a header and net his first league goal in France. He did ever so well to leap ahead of Barbosa to meet Lucas’ corner and despite Leroy’s best efforts, the power was too much.
We then took the lead eight minutes later via Marco Verratti of all people! The little Italian also registered his ever Ligue 1 goal and his second ever in Parisian colours. The number 24 was in the right place at the right time to finish on the half-volley.
The football was fantastic at times as we eased into the interval with the lead. And for 15 minutes into the second-half we were as comfortable as could be.
However, after his mistake last weekend in the penalty for Bastia Gregory Van der Wiel scored an audacious own goal with a bullet of a header from a Wass delivery. Sirigu was taken unawares and was unable to prevent it going in.
Changes were needed and Blanc reintroduced Edindon Cavani. The reception he got was mixed. Plenty of cheers but also a fair share of whistles as well but his emergence from the bench galvanised us. It injected an urgency that lacked after the break and you could not fault his effort. He was evidently trying his best.
15 minutes from time, Pastore finished with aplomb to put us back into the lead. Some lovely build-up play between him, Ibra and then the cross from Lucas for the Argentine to meet was splendid. Really good move by the champions!
Ezequiel Lavezzi also came on and got a similar reception to that of Cavani. Mixture of cheers and boos. El Matador though went a long way in making amends with a goal to wrap things up minutes from time. It all started from some excellent ball winning by Luiz at the half-way line. Van der Wiel threaded a lovely ball down the line for Ibra who played it to the back post for his teammate to finish. Incidentally, that was Ibra’s first assist of the season.
It has momentarily moved us up to third, level on points with Marseille (41). They and Saint-Etienne play later today but we are now four points off the leaders Lyon.
Next up is a home tie with Bordeaux in the last-32 of the Coupe de France.