Cavani makes debut as PSG open title defence with draw in Montpellier

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

John Berry/Getty ImagesEdinson Cavani made his official Ligue 1 debut as a substitute in PSG's opening 1-1 draw at Montpellier.

Paris Saint-Germain began their Ligue 1 title defence with a 1-1 draw at Montpellier in their 2013-2014 season opener. The hosts finished the match at the Stade de la Mosson with 10 men, but Laurent Blanc's side were unable to make their one-man advantage count in the final 18 minutes.

The result is an exact repeat of the 1-1 score line last November at the Stade de la Mosson, and even the goal-scorers were exactly the same with Remy Cabella scoring for the home side. The only difference this time was that it was Abdelhamid El Kaoutari who saw red instead of Mamadou Sakho. Maxwell netted a deserved equaliser for PSG, but it was a night of frustration as some old problems came back to haunt the French champions.

- Gamecast: Montpellier 1-1 PSG

Pre-match, all eyes were on Edinson Cavani as the Uruguayan international started on the bench due to a lack of match fitness, but his presence soon took a back seat as Montpellier raced into the lead inside of 10 minutes. Cabella scored from a tight angle after Zlatan Ibrahimovic had been dispossessed, and arguably fouled, allowing Jean Fernandez's side to sweep home a neat counter-attack.

On 72 minutes though, Le Championnat finally got its first glimpse of 'El Matador' as he came on to replace former Napoli teammate Ezequiel Lavezzi. The 26-year-old set about making an immediate impact and got involved right away, going close to getting his head on the end of a dangerous cross.

But Cavani's big moment came two minutes later when an inch-perfect Javier Pastore cross found him waiting at the back post only for his strong header to be blocked by former PSG man Siaka Tiene, of all people. Otherwise it was a subdued debut for the 64 million Euro man, but there were some early signs of encouragement.

The Uruguayan's link-up play was better than expected, particularly with former Palermo teammate Pastore, as there were early signs of promise. But the fact that he appeared to be getting Ibrahimovic involved as well, not the other way around, was the most impressive indicator. However, he was only on the field for just over 20 minutes so it is difficult to draw too many conclusions.

Ibrahimovic himself did not have the most enjoyable of games, but he made the difference when it counted. On the hour mark, the towering Swede nodded Pastore's clipped cross down into the path of Maxwell who lashed into the net to cancel out Cabella's early opener. The 31-year-old also went close from an early second half free kick as he looked to atone for having lost the ball in the build-up to Montpellier's opener.

The goal was no less than what Maxwell deserved for a swashbuckling performance, marauding up and down the left flank and contributing to attack while staying disciplined in defence. Picking up where he left off last season, the newly called-up Brazilian is justifying Blanc's decision to overlook Lucas Digne for now because of his trademark and impressive consistency.

But his compatriot, Lucas Moura, who was brimming with confidence on the right, perhaps outshone him in the man of the match stakes. The 20-year-old was excellent from set pieces and was constantly running at the Montpellier back line, looking lively and refreshed compared to last season's overworked young star.

Had PSG played the same way in the first 45 minutes as they did in the second half, the chances are that Blanc would have been celebrating a first Ligue 1 victory with PSG over the club where he started his professional career. But shorn of Thiago Motta's reassuring presence, the side from the capital were lacking composure in the midfield during the first half. His replacement, compatriot Marco Verratti, constantly looked only a few steps away from a yellow card all night.

The inevitable caution came in the 32nd minute, and by the looks of things, Blanc should get used to that happening because there are few signs that it will be any less of an occurrence this season than compared to last. The diminutive Italian was lucky that yellow did not become a red on a number of occasions, and he was finally substituted in the 76th minute, just when it looked as if he would actually receive his marching orders.

Pastore, Verratti's replacement in the centre of the park alongside the hard-working Blaise Matuidi in order to move Hervin Ongenda forward, was particularly guilty of being sloppy in the first half. However, his second period showing was much improved and the Argentine looked far more composed and saw more of the ball when he switched to Verratti's deeper role later on. He flashed a late effort just wide in that position and perhaps it offers some food for thought for Blanc, despite Carlo Ancelotti's previous failure to convert Pastore into a deep-lying creator.

Overall though, a draw was a fair result, with the performance encasing PSG's average performances over the last two years in a nutshell. Montpellier bossed the first 45 minutes with PSG launching a comeback in the second. Blanc will be concerned by how long it took his team to react after going behind -- netting the equaliser 50 minutes later -- but given how disciplined La Paillade looked early on, it was a positive result. PSG become the fourth titleholders in four seasons to fail to win on opening day, but Ajaccio at home next should pose less of a threat.

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