PARIS (AP) After falling short in the Champions League, Paris Saint-Germain returned to its French league comfort zone and beat Strasbourg 5-2 on Saturday.
Edinson Cavani netted twice, and Julian Draxler, Angel Di Maria, and Neymar also scored to ensure PSG stayed 12 points clear of second-place Monaco at the top.
But not without a fright.
Strasbourg took the lead in the sixth minute and pulled back to 3-2 as PSG continued to show alarming signs of weakness at the back. Strasbourg had a late goal incorrectly ruled out for offside after PSG’s defense was again easily breached, although it was already 5-2 by then.
PSG lost at Real Madrid 3-1 on Wednesday in the first leg of the last 16. The way PSG capitulated by giving away two late goals heaped pressure on coach Unai Emery over his team selection.
“The atmosphere was a bit tense. That’s normal,” Cavani said. “We have to look forward now. We played well today, although at times we could have been better.”
Emery was booed by sections of the home crowd when his name was announced over the loudspeaker before the game. Later, Cavani stopped short of giving Emery his personal backing when asked if the under-fire coach has the full support of the players.
“We’re a team and big teams stick together in the important moments,” Cavani said. “That’s the only way you can win.”
Strasbourg beat PSG at home in December, and stunned the crowd at Parc des Princes by taking the lead when midfielder Jean-Eudes Aholou was left completely unmarked near the penalty spot.
PSG hit back hard and was 3-1 up after 23 minutes thanks to Draxler, Di Maria and Neymar’s 19th in 19 league games.
Stephane Bahoken scored against PSG for the second time this season after a quick counterattack. Strasbourg poured forward but the hope didn’t last for long.
Cavani gave PSG some breathing space with an assured finish in the 72nd, clipping the ball over goalkeeper Alexandre Oukidja, then lobbed him for his league-leading 23rd goal.
“It was important to win after Wednesday’s match. We have to get our fans ready for the games to come against Marseille (next weekend) and Real Madrid,” Emery said. “We have to show we can maintain this level of play against better sides, with all due respect to Strasbourg.”
To celebrate Chinese New Year, PSG players’ names were written in Mandarin on the back of their shirts and a Chinese dragon paraded around the pitch. PSG says it has 1.3 million Chinese followers.
In order to better serve the soccer market in Asia, the league match between Nice and PSG on March 18 has been moved forward to 1 p.m. local time (1200 GMT).
Marseille players will also have their names in Mandarin for Sunday’s home game against Bordeaux at Stade Velodrome. Marseille recently launched an account on Chinese social media site Weibo.
Striker Giovanni Sio’s second-half equalizer gave Montpellier the point it needed to take fifth place after drawing with Guingamp 1-1.
Two goals from newly signed striker Diafra Sakho gave Rennes a 2-2 draw at Caen, which missed two penalties.
Saint-Etienne won at Angers 1-0, Troyes beat last-place Metz 1-0, and Amiens drew with Toulouse 0-0 in another relegation scrap.
In Sunday’s other games, fourth-place Lyon goes to Lille, and Nice hosts Nantes.
Out Dan Agyei (Blackpool) Loan
Tom Anderson (Doncaster Rovers) Loan
Jimmy Dunne (Accrington Stanley) Loan
Harry Flowers (Guiseley) Undisclosed
Josh Ginnelly (Tranmere Rovers) Loan
Luke Hendrie (Shrewsbury Town) Undisclosed
Alex Whitmore (Chesterfield) Undisclosed
In Ross Barkley (Everton) Undisclosed
Olivier Giroud (Arsenal) Undisclosed Emerson Palmieri (Roma) Undisclosed
Jack Boyle (Clyde) Loan
Dylan Cogill (Clyde) LoanFraser Horsfall (Kidderminster Harriers) Undisclosed
Danny Kane (Cork City) Undisclosed Joe Lolley (Nottingham Forest) Undisclosed
Jack Payne (Blackburn Rovers) Loan Ryan Schofield (AFC Telford) Loan
Tadhg Ryan (Released)
Cedwyn Scott (Dundee) Undisclosed
Out James Wilson (Sheffield United) Loan
Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Arsenal) Swap
Alex Tuanzebe (Aston Villa) Loan
Matty Willock (St Johnstone) Loan
Charlie Scott (Hamilton Academical) Loan
Demi Mitchell (Hearts) Loan
Martin Dubravka (Sparta Prague) Loan
Kenedy (Chelsea) Loan Islam Slimani (Leicester City) Loan
An email leaked to Lawton has Henry declining a potential transfer target with the reasoning, “We don’t want any more Africans and he’s not good enough.” He also says it’s a policy supported by club management.
“It’s nothing racist at all. It’s just sometimes they can have a bad attitude. We had problems with Sakho, with Diafra Sakho. We find that when they are not in the team they cause mayhem. It’s nothing against the African race at all.
“I mean, look, there are top African players. There’s not a problem with them. It’s just sometimes they cause a lot of problems when they are not playing, as we had with Diafra. He’s left, so great. It’s nothing personal at all.”
Henry went on to credit Cheikhou Kouyate as a top player in defending his point, adding that he felt Russians and Italians also failed to settle in England.
West Ham issued a lengthy response calling itself an “inclusive, respectful, and diverse football” club, laying out their reasoning. As for the alleged email from Henry, the club told the Mail:
‘We take any allegations of discrimination extremely seriously and are now in the process of ascertaining the full facts behind this accusation.’
However, Newcastle United were thought to be the favorites on Monday, but West Bromwich Albion have now become the clear front-runners to sign Sturridge with Alan Pardew offering him the chance to be their main striker for the rest of the season.
Speaking to the media on Monday, Jurgen Klopp had his say on Sturridge’s future.
“In the next three days a lot will probably happen but nothing to say about that. If there was something it wouldn’t help us, Daniel or the other club to talk about it,” Klopp said.
Are West Brom the best fit for Sturridge? He needs game time if he’s going to have any chance of getting in the England squad for the 2018 World Cup this summer and although Jay Rodriguez scored twice against Liverpool in West Brom’s shock FA Cup win at Anfield at the weekend, his talents are better used out wide. West Brom certainly create better chances for their forwards than Newcastle and you can argue that the Baggies have more momentum than the struggling Magpies at a crucial part of the season.
Pardew’s other attacking options at West Brom are far from prolific with Salomon Rondon and Hal Robson-Kanu mustering just five PL goals between them this season despite their hard-working displays. Sturridge would add an extra cutting edge to the Baggies attack and if he stays fit he will give them a massive boost in their battle against relegation from the Premier League.
Newcastle and Rafael Benitez must be kicking themselves as another potentially massive deal looks to have fallen at the final hurdle.
West Ham United are expected to be busy in the final days of the window with David Moyes reportedly chasing a new striker and central midfielder.
Schneiderlin, 28, has fallen out of favor at Goodison Park since Sam Allardyce‘s arrival and the French international midfielder has seen his bright start to life at Everton fade badly since Ronald Koeman was sacked at the start of this season.
West Ham have been linked with many holding midfielders in previous windows, including Sporting Lisbon’s William Carvalho, Anderlcht’s Leander Dendoncker and Bournemouth’s Harry Arter, and Schneiderlin’s ability to break the ball up and start attacks would certainly fit the bill. Schneiderlin will reportedly cost $28 million.
His former Southampton teammate Pelle, who has been at Chinese Super League side Shandong Lenung for the past 18 months, earns over $1.2 million per month in China but West Ham are said to want the 31-year-old to return to the Premier League. Italian international Pelle scored 30 goals in two seasons at Southampton from 2014-2016 but has scored just 12 goals in China so far.
Pelle’s arrival as a target man may place question marks around Carroll’s future at the London Stadium, especially given Chelsea’s reported interest, but the 32-year-old Italian will want to be compensated handsomely if he is to leave his deal in China 12 months before its expiration.
Joao Mario, who can play in a range of midfield positions, joined Inter from Portuguese club Sporting after excelling in Portugal’s European Championship-winning campaign in 2016. He didn’t settle at Inter, which has changed its coach several times since the midfielder’s arrival.