Friday 6th April:
St Etienne 1-1 Paris Saint-Germain
It is becoming something of novelty when Paris Saint-Germain fail to win a Ligue 1 game. The occasion is something to be savoured by those who believe that the club are the very antithesis of what the beautiful game should be about, something to be placed on a pedestal and remembered for years to come as ‘that moment PSG actually didn’t win for once’.
But aside from the controversy surrounding the Parc des Princes, and the club’s Qatari owners unafraid to splash millions on their transfer targets, it cannot be denied that PSG, in domestic competitions in particular, look likely to set the precedent for league triumphs for many years to come. The Parisians have only failed to pick up maximum points in a game on five separate occasions this campaign, with the stalemate at St Etienne arriving in fortuitous circumstances. The salient facts are that St Etienne should have rode out the game’s final stages and deservedly earned victory, and also that Edinson Cavani stabbed wide one of the worst spurned chances in the history of France’s top flight.
What makes the outcome at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard even more resounding is that PSG even had the chance to clinch the Ligue 1 title this weekend, provided St Etienne were brushed aside and Monaco fell to an, although admittedly unlikely, defeat to struggling Nantes. The wait to lift the trophy must now wait for a little while longer, although the Paris faithful can remain content with the fact that league is still effectively a procession.
However, PSG looked far from a championship-winning side for the majority of this season against St Etienne. The home side, currently in the midst of their own resurgence, opened the scoring after 14 minutes through Remy Cabella – the Frenchman’s fourth goal in his last three league games. Mathieu Debuchy’s delivery fell to Cabella, who tucked past Alphonse Areola.
On the half hour mark, St Etienne’s in form playmaker was presented with the chance to fire the home side two goals to the good. Presnel Kimpembe gave away a penalty after a clumsy challenge on Romain Hamouma, but Cabella was denied his brace from 12 yards by Areola. Replays showed Kylian Mbappe signalling to his goalkeeper where he believed Cabella was planning to place his spot kick, with the trick working well.
Kimpembe was then shown his second yellow card, and a subsequent red, just before half-time to plunge the runaway leaders into even further trouble.
But as the second half progressed, Paris Saint-Germain began to take control. In the 75th minute, Angel di Maria charged through the heart of the St Etienne team, and played the ball across the penalty area for the waiting Cavani. The Uruguayan opted to pull the trigger first time, but inadvertently sent the effort trickling wide of the gaping target.
After that miss, St Etienne could be forgiven for believing that luck was on their side. But, in one cruel, final twist deep into stoppage time, luck conspired against them. Mbappe’s flick into the box sailed harmlessly towards the far post, but as the ball dropped it ricocheted off Debuchy and nestled in the back of the net, somehow rescuing a point for PSG at the very death.
Elsewhere in Ligue 1:
Toulouse 0-1 Dijon: Toulouse came into this fixture fully expecting to end their poor recent run and begin to steer away from the relegation zone. However, it was Dijon who emerged with all three points after Kwon Chang-Hoon’s tenth minute opener, the Korean pouncing on the rebound after Alban Lafont had originally denied Wesley Said’s effort. Dijon picked up their second away victory of the campaign, and their first win in five.
Guingamp 4-0 Troyes: Guingamp picked up back-to-back victories after a comprehensive demolition of struggling Troyes. Clement Grenier’s corner was converted by Nicolas Benezet after 23 minutes, before Ludovic Blas bundled home Guingamp’s second shortly after half-time. Further finishes from Yeni Ngbakoto and Jeremy Briand added gloss to the scoreline for the home side.
Bordeaux 2-1 Lille: Lille’s well-documented struggles continued with a narrow away defeat at Bordeaux, Gus Poyet’s side’s first victory in seven games. The visitors opened the scoring after 13 minutes, when Kevin Malcuit’s delivery picked out Lebo Mothiba, who drilled home via the underside of the crossbar. But Bordeaux would end up victors, after a mistake from goalkeeper Herve Koffi was capitalised by Francois Kamano, before the same player went on to score again on 45 minutes.
Angers 1-1 Strasbourg: In a clash between two strugglers, the spoils were shared. The home side broke the deadlock after six minutes when Thomas Mangani raced into the box, skipped a challenge and crossed for Karl Toko Ekambi, who converted for his 17th goal of the season. But Strasbourg, who hold a dismal away record in Ligue 1 this campaign, fought back for a point on 71 minutes when Jonas Martin converted a penalty he had won after a challenge from Vincent Manceau.
Amiens 3-0 Caen: Amiens’ hopes of Ligue 1 survival were given a huge boost after a crucial victory over fellow strugglers Caen. The home side made the breakthrough after 20 minutes, Bakaye Dibassy finishing from close range after Moussa Konate’s clever flick-on. Serge Gakpe then added Amiens’ second, after latching onto Thomas Monconduit’s miscued effort and burying past Remy Vercoutre. Konate notched up his brace in the second half to round off a successful home win for Amiens in their 400th game at the Stade de la Licorne.
Monaco 2-1 Nantes: Monaco tightened their grip on second place with a narrow victory over Nantes, whose manager Claudio Ranieri has recently announced his intention to remain at the Stade de la Beaujoire for next season. But the visitors opened the scoring surprisingly, when Adrien Thomasson rifled a strike past Danjiel Subasic. But in the three minutes before half-time, Monaco turned the game around and wrapped up another three points in the race for a Champions League place. Radamel Falcao was alert to convert after Rony Lopes failed to control Fabinho’s heavy pass, before the Colombian then teed up Lopes to swivel and bury past Ciprian Tatarusanu on 45 minutes.
Metz 0-5 Lyon: Memphis Depay played a crucial role as Lyon fired five past basement side Metz, and moved above Marseille into third place. In only the first minute, Depay’s corner was met by Marcelo, who nodded beyond Eiji Kawashima. Then, on 21 minutes, Marcelo had scored his second – an identical headed finish from another Depay corner, this time from the left. The Dutchman then lobbed home Lyon’s third, before picking up a hat-trick of assists as Bertrand Traore finishing low into the net. There was still time late on for Depay to play through Mariano, who clipped past Kawashima for five-nil.
Nice 1-1 Rennes: The spoils were shared between Nice and Rennes, two sides chasing their respective ambitions of European football. Nice opened the scoring after 17 minutes, when Alassane Plea’s deflected shot looped into the net after a touch from Rennes’ defender Jeremy Gelin. However, with only point point separating both teams, the visitors were soon level when Benjamin Bourigeaud evaded Marlon Santos and tucked home from close range.
Marseille 0-0 Montpellier: Marseille slipped into fourth place, after a disappointing performance in a below-par contest with high-flying Montpellier. Without the impact of Florian Thauvin, the home side struggled to carve out opportunities and came closest to scoring when Morgan Sanson struck the woodwork after 55 minutes. The goalless stalemate ensures that Marseille are now behind Lyon on goal difference, as the two sides vie for the remaining Champions League qualifying spot.
Fixtures to look out for next week:
Lyon – Amiens: Two sides with very differing ambitions meet next Saturday. Lyon will be looking to usurp Marseille for the final Champions League qualifying spot, while Amiens are scrapping for every possible point in a relegation scrap.
Paris Saint-Germain – Monaco: This clash between the top two sides promises to be a special one. PSG will be hunting the league title, whilst Monaco continue to tighten their grip on the Ligue 1 runners up position.