Ibrahimovic saves point for PSG against determined Anderlecht

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Paris Saint-Germain will be made to wait to confirm their place in the next round of the Champions League after being held to a 1-1 draw at the Parc des Princes by a resilient RSC Anderlecht side. A fortnight after thumping the Belgian champions 5-0 at the Constant Vanden Stock, Laurent Blanc’s side were almost upstaged by a transformed team.

• Blanc bemoans 'average' PSG

Zlatan Ibrahimovic spared PSG’s blushes, cancelling out Demy de Zeeuw’s 68th-minute opener within 120 seconds of the Dutchman scoring. John van den Brom’s side also had U.S. national team member Sacha Kljestan sent off with eight minutes remaining as they secured a valuable point. However, the visitors enjoyed a number of good chances and could have pulled off a shock win.

As it was, Ibrahimovic’s presence despite not being 100 percent fit was enough to secure a draw that makes the next Group C fixture against Olympiacos a match that would confirm their passage to the latter stages and win the group. The 1-1 result also keeps alive an impressive run of 32 matches unbeaten for the French champions.

Perhaps the most encouraging thing to take from the performance was the mature way that they approached the game and the situations it presented. After Anderlecht had ridden the early pressure from Blanc’s side, including a costly Ezequiel Lavezzi miss, it became clear that the hosts were up against a sterner team than the one that faced them two weeks before.

Instead of getting frustrated and losing discipline and coherence, as might have happened last season, the PSG players kept their nerve and concentration and continued to play the expansive brand of football that Blanc has instilled in them since taking over.

Only this week Le President was speaking with the French media saying of his players: “The squad has faith in what we're doing. Despite things going against us, the players are able to maintain the same philosophy [despite trailing in games], and that's very, very important."

That was true of the team once again here and, although the performance was not as complete as some of the recent league and European showings, it still demonstrated the same authority and control over the match. Anderlecht perhaps created the better chances, but they could not compete for possession and PSG’s control of the ball rarely slipped below 60 percent for the duration of the match.

It was up top where the side from the capital were lacking the most. Edinson Cavani’s absence was noted by the lack of any real goal threat outside of Ibrahimovic who, had it not been such an important game, would probably not have started. Lavezzi missed the chances that came his way and contributed little towards the creative side, while Lucas Moura looked dangerous in short bursts and did not see enough of the ball.

PSG looked more dangerous when Jeremy Menez and Javier Pastore were introduced, with the Frenchman in particular looking purposeful. The direct threat offered by the temperamental French international, as evidenced against FC Lorient on Friday by his goal, leads to goals more often than Lavezzi’s approach.

Despite their shortcomings in front of goal though, it was far from the disappointing performance that the small smattering of booing at halftime and full time suggested. Much like against Ajaccio earlier in the season, a match that also finished 1-1 despite PSG bossing the possession and creating a hatful of chances, they seem to still be finding a way to be at their most clinical. We have already seen a collection of devastating displays in Ligue 1 and the Champions League where PSG have thumped their opponents; the key now for Blanc and his side is the consistency of those brilliant performances.

Overall through, a 1-1 draw is a satisfactory result because of how things have gone so far this season. Compared with last year, PSG are two points better off in their Champions League group and five points better off in Le Championnat. There is no doubt that the team are playing better and more effective football under Blanc -- one slightly unexpected result does not change that. The return of Thiago Silva, replacing Marquinhos for the last 28 minutes or so, is also a massive positive.

Next up for PSG is a potentially tricky home fixture against an OGC Nice side looking to bounce back from successive defeats after beating Olympique de Marseille two weeks ago.

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