Cavani on target as PSG edge Valenciennes, keep pressure on Monaco

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Paris Saint-Germain managed to edge past stubborn Valenciennes 1-0 Wednesday at the Stade du Hainaut thanks to Edinson Cavani’s lonely goal on the stroke of half time on Wednesday. The result is invaluable after the setback of Sunday’s draw at home against title rivals AS Monaco, but the performance left a lot to be desired from the champions.

Laurent Blanc will be disappointed most that the winning margin was so small, although PSG converted on their most clear-cut opening of the match. But he will also feel underwhelmed at how his side failed to dominate the encounter and that it was arguably the team’s worst showing so far this season.

The final score is what mattered though, and, given the criticism aimed at Cavani and strike partner Zlatan Ibrahimovic regarding the Uruguayan’s relatively quiet start to life in the French capital, his third goal in five starting appearances was the perfect riposte.

Approaching the interval, Ibrahimovic picked up the ball and advanced towards the Valenciennes penalty area, waiting patiently for a sliver of space in which to thread an excellent pass into Cavani's path. El Matador still had plenty to do, but his low drive across the face of goal beat Nicolas Penneteau and proved to be enough to secure the three points.

Coming from the only pass between the two PSG strikers in the first half, Ibra’s moment of inspiration showed what we can expect to see more of from the pair as they continue to get used to playing together. Blanc tried to speed up their bonding by allowing Cavani more licence to come inside in a loose 4-3-3 formation that could have been interpreted as a 4-3-2-1 Christmas tree. But the presence of Ezequiel Lavezzi and Javier Pastore destroyed any hope of that plan working.

In fact, the organisation was so unclear that PSG barely utilised the right side of the pitch throughout the 90 minutes. More telling was the fact PSG had 53 percent of possession. That may be domination, but it is marginal and the lowest total of the season so far, despite having already faced the likes of Monaco.

Le President rang the changes in his selection, bringing in Lucas Digne, Christophe Jallet and Alex, as well as Pastore, but the rotation appeared to have little effect. Digne worked hard but struggled on the left and arguably was lucky not to see more than a yellow card for a crude challenge late in the first half. Jallet looked stretched at right back when called upon, but his side of the pitch was eerily quiet as PSG focused on the left flank.

Pastore, back in the side after recent injury, looked determined to prove a point to his coach with some purposeful early running and a couple of efforts on goal. His opportunity within 60 seconds of kickoff was arguably PSG’s best chance apart from Cavani’s goal and, despite some greater intensity and improved effort, he still misplaced a number of passes and seemed to lack a clear position on the pitch.

More concerning for PSG and Blanc will be that Alex, back in the line-up after injury and in place of the injured Thiago Silva, had to come off at half time to be replaced by Zoumana Camara. The 34-year-old defender helped his side make the clean sheet stick this time, but the veteran still looked off the pace. With some big games coming up next week against Benfica in the Champions League and Marseille in Le Championnat, the Brazilian will surely not be risked again, assuming he has not picked up a severe injury.

Monaco destroyed Bastia to re-establish their two-point lead, but the PSG triumph ensured a third clean sheet of the season for Blanc’s side. 15 points from seven games is an identical record, points-wise, to Carlo Ancelotti’s last season. However, the Italian’s side had scored 12 and conceded three, compared with the 10 and four by Blanc's squad.

Overall, it was an underwhelming performance even if it was the right result following Sunday’s draw. It could have been worse had Marco Verratti not cleared a goal-bound effort off the line early in the second half. Better will be expected against Toulouse on Saturday as PSG prepare to welcome Clement Chantome back to the Parc des Princes. The clash will also pit Blanc's side against the in-form Danish international Martin Braithwaite, who has three goals this season.

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