Offshore drilling, France: at Paris Saint-Germain 2, Lorient 2

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Last year, Lorient opened their Ligue 1 season with an upset over title favorites Paris Saint Germain. This year, they nearly shocked us once more, taking a 2-0 lead in Paris before the juggernaut showed up.

Man of the Match: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, of course. One of Paris Saint-Germain’s three huge offseason purchases, Ibra gave a display that would have made François Hollande forget his salary. Providing an endless stream of flicks, back heels, and headers, Ibrahimovic was involved in almost everything Paris Saint-Germain did going forward. Though he had his own issues finishing (missing two headers and nailing a post), Ibra’s creativity could have won this match if he got the smallest of help from Jeremy Menez. But instead of assists, it was two Ibra goals that brought PSG back, with his 64th minute chest trap, turn, and volley of Nene’s floated pass producing a probable goal of the weekend.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • PSG started making news well before the match when their lineup became known:
    • Nicolas Douchez started ahead of Salvatore Sirigu in goal,
    • Nene was on the bench, with Jeremy Menez in the XI,
    • Blaise Matuidi gave way to Marco Verratti in midfield,
    • While Clement Chantome was in for the suspended Javier Pastore.
  • In the opening minutes, PSG didn’t seem phased by Carlo Ancelotti’s selection. Ezequiel Lavezzi was threatening the left side of Lorient’s defense, nearly creating an early goal for Menez. The team’s passing was crisp, and it looked like the Parisian attack would perform to everybody’s lofty expectations.
  • In the fourth minute, however, PSG missed Matuidi, as a poor defensive decision from Verratti allowed a Lorient counter attack to go from concern to major threat. The Italian prospect dove toward a wall pass from Kevin Monnet-Paquet to Alain Traore. Monnet-Paquet would eventually get the ball back, beat Alex to get a ball into the six, and drive in cross that went off Maxwell and into the PSG goal.
  • The lead played right into Lorient’s hands, who use a deep line of four in the middle of their 4-4-2. Their defensive line stayed deep (within five yards of the top of the arc when the ball was near the center line) while their midfield only left about six yards of space between the lines.
  • Asked to help with Lavezzi and Menez, Lorient’s wide midfielders stayed in line with their central pair.
  • As a result, Veratti and Chantome had plenty of time to play long balls at the defense, with PSG’s best chances coming from (a) playing direct to Ibrahimovic, or (b) hitting Lavezzi and allowing him to quickly attack into the channels. Were it not for a very strong first half from Lorient center half Bruno Ecuele Manga, goalkeeper Fabien Audard would have been bombarded.
  • Three minutes into first half stoppage time, Lorient looked to have written one of the last chapters to their sequel. Left back Lucas Mareque intercepted a Chantome pass and quickly moved the ball to Jermaine Aliadiere. The former Middlesbrough attacker took on Alex and Mamadou Sahko, cutting in from the left to beat them both before finishing past Douchez, doubling Lorient’s lead.
  • At halftime, Ecuele Manga had to come off (having aggravated a leg injury). With head coach Christian Gourcuff forced to pull Alaixys Romao from midfield into defense, PSG’s siege was on.
  • The first breakthrough came in the 64th minute, with Ibrahimovic winning a lofted Nene ball from defender Gregory Bourillon, cushioning it with his chest, playing it to feet behind Bourillon, and getting a shot on (and into) goal before Romao and right back Lamine Kone could collapse and help. It was an amazing piece of skill, highlighting one of the more enthralling displays of technical proficiency you’re likely to see this summer.
  • Around Ibra’s opener, PSG’s attack was defined by frustration.
    • Ibra’s missed three chances, putting a brilliant set up by Lavezzi off the right post.
    • Lavezzi had also missed an easy chance, seemingly surprised when an Ibrahimovic ball found its way through traffic to his feet at the edge of the six.
    • Jeremey Menez, however, was the greatest offender, failing to convert four chances he should be expected to finish (three created by Ibrahimovic).
    • Add an Alex header off a corner that could have been converted, and PSG seemed like to be pressing.
  • In the 88th minute, PSG got the break they needed. A great through ball from Kevin Gameiro 35 yards out found Blaise Matuidi on a run from midfield. Bourillon, already on a yellow, was forced to take a chance his late challenge wouldn’t be called. It was, he was shown a second yellow, and Ibrahimovic converted the ensuing penalty kick.
  • For Lorient, it was an excellent performance. You could see the likes of Ecuele Manga, Mareque, Monnet-Pacquet, Traore and Aliadiere rise to the occasion. Each, along with Audard, gave inspired performances.
  • For PSG … well, it’s a better start than last year. And the Ibrahimovic-Lavezzi combination’s going to be amazing. But …
    • I’m sure Carlo Ancelotti will be happy to finally have Thiago Silva with the team, because his central defense (particularly, Alex) looked vulnerable.
    • In the middle, Marco Verratti enticed, but he’s going to have to offer something more than a great long ball, especially when Javier Pastore’s in the XI.
    • And Jeremy Menez? He probably shouldn’t be starting over Nene in important games.

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