Paris Saint-Germain signed off in style for 2012-13 with a 3-1 win at Lorient on Sunday. As Ligue 1 drew to a close the capital club travelled to Brittany -- as they did on the final day of last season -- but this time with the title already sewn up and no final-day drama in store.
Or so everyone thought. With no David Beckham to bid farewell -- although he was in the stands -- there was an emotional farewell for one of the real good guys of French football, Ludovic Giuly. Now with Lorient after a three-year spell with PSG, Giuly bows out at 36, and Les Parisiens’ goalkeeper Ronan Le Crom did too at 38 in his birthplace.
More significant for Carlo Ancelotti's side heading into the game, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was chasing a milestone. With one goal Sunday, the Swede would equal Jean-Pierre Papin of Marseille’s record of 30 goals in a season from 1989-90. Two would have broken it, and the Italian gave Ibrahimovic the start ahead of the perennially unflavoured former Lorient striker Kevin Gameiro, despite choosing to involve a number of the team’s fringe players for the final game of the season.
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After 51 minutes of waiting, the 31-year-old finally drew level with Papin, chesting home a wonderful weighted cross from Gameiro before celebrating with the substitutes bench. It was no less than Ibrahimovic deserved this season. Although he wasn't to go on and smash the 23-year-old record, his form throughout the season deserved to equal if not usurp the long-standing mark.
Former FCL man Gameiro was visibly delighted to be back on familiar territory and added to his assist 12 minutes later. Ibrahimovic turned provider, playing a tantalising ball across the box the French international just had to stab home before muting his celebration as a mark of respect. He doubled that tally two minutes later, Javier Pastore standing up a brilliant cross that dropped perfectly into the path of Gameiro to smash home.
Though far from happy with this season's events, the 26-year-old can take some consolation from the fact that he scored eight goals in just seven starts. In fact, he replaced the injured Ezequiel Lavezzi after 18 minutes at the Stade Moustoir in what could be his last game for the capital club.
At 3-0 the game was over, but the drama was yet to follow. Le Crom, PSG’s third-choice keeper, bringing an end to a long and relatively nondescript career, had replaced 20-year-old Alphonse Areola on the hour mark so that he too could collect a winner’s medal at the end of the season.
His half-hour in the sun turned into a nightmare, seeing red nine minutes from time after conceding a penalty, leaving the field in tears. Mamadou Sakho took one for the team by opting to don the gloves, even seeing the funny side of it, but could not stop Arnaud Le Lan from smashing home the spot-kick to make it 3-1.
It was a fine way to end the season, although Le Crom's dismissal soured it somewhat. But the long-lasting memory from the day will be the standing ovation Giuly received as he made his way from the field one last time. Captain Sylvain Armand, reportedly set to leave the Parc des Princes after nine years, handed him a PSG shirt named and numbered as a mark of respect for the former Rouge-et-Bleu maestro.
Nobody, not even Ibrahimovic, could begrudge the veteran stealing the show as he brought the curtain down on his career, but the Swede will be happy to finish the season with one more achievement to his name.
However, the match had an air of finality about it and there may well be a number of changes afoot in the French capital. Ancelotti's future in the first order of business for the club's hierarchy, before they tackle the challenge laid down to them by big-spending principality outfit Monaco and sit down with a number of players to discuss their futures. A decision has to be made soon, but with or without Ancelotti, changes will have to be made to the playing staff, and it feels like the summer will bring plenty of that.
But despite all the off-field distractions, PSG finished the campaign as they started it, against Lorient, with their primary aim of ending a 19-year wait for a title achieved.