Brittle PSG snap against Evian

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Evian celeb vs. PSG GettyImagesEvian secured a shock 2-0 victory against Ligue 1 leaders PSG, Clarck N'Sikulu scoring the hosts' first goal.

Paris Saint-Germain succumbed to a 2-0 defeat against Evian Thonon Gaillard FC in Annecy, ending the capital side's dreams of equalling or bettering their own club record unbeaten streak of 27 league matches. Laurent Blanc's men, without defeat in a competitive game over 90 minutes since March (36 encounters), were undone by two late goals at the Parc des Sports but can have few complaints about the result.

The defending champions created more than enough chances and enjoyed their standard domination of possession, but did little with the ball and were made to pay by their determined hosts. PSG crashed out of the Coupe de France in Annecy back in April, losing 4-1 on penalties, but this time, Pascal Dupraz’s side got the better of the defending champions inside of normal time. The 2-0 defeat, the first time the Parisians have failed to score a single goal in a game all season, should serve as a warning sign to Blanc and his players after a host of changes backfired.

PSG travelled to south-eastern France without Thiago Motta, Alex and Ezequiel Lavezzi, so Le President opted to make six changes to the side that thumped Olympique Lyonnais 4-0 on Sunday. Marquinhos replaced Alex in defence, while Motta made way for the returning Blaise Matuidi and Jeremy Menez came in for Lavezzi. Blanc also brought in Christophe Jallet and Lucas Digne on either side of defence with Adrien Rabiot starting instead of Javier Pastore. Despite that injection of fresh legs into the side, they still managed to succumb to a 2-0 loss.

It seemed like a step too far this time and, instead of having its usual reinvigorating effect, Blanc’s over-rotation completely snapped the team’s recent rhythm and smacked of arrogance. Marquinhos, who has been excellent so far this season despite his relative inexperience, suffered on the night and did not look comfortable alongside Thiago Silva -- although he was not helped at times by Jallet’s defensive ineptitude. Matuidi, Rabiot and Marco Verratti, although familiar as a trio, lost the same authority that the midfield enjoys with Motta on the field, and the performance underlined his indispensability to the side at present. The fact that the Italian international has been absent from each of PSG’s last six defeats is a telling sign that he is simply irreplaceable.

Menez and Pastore produced inept performances, with Pastore in particular looking poor. Despite only entering the field in the 62nd minute, the Argentine managed to undo all of the encouraging progress he has made of late with a pitiful 28-minute cameo. Firstly, Pastore’s loose pass created the first goal and the second immediately followed him missing a straightforward chance to level the scores. Menez did not fare much better, passing up a great opportunity earlier in the game when it appeared easier to score.

Lucas Moura, who has looked so brilliant in recent weeks since rediscovering his early PSG form, was uninspiring too. His ineffectual substitute appearance lessens his previously strong claims to the third striking berth alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani. Lavezzi, despite his disappointing showing last weekend, could still be in with a chance of regaining what was once his starting position.

The position is once again up for grabs after his three potential rivals for the role failed to lay any sort of solid claims to it. Cavani himself was not at his best and was uncharacteristically subdued, while Ibrahimovic looked like one of the few who genuinely had the desire to win the match, but he has now failed to score against Evian in 300 minutes of football.

While there are plenty of negatives, the performance of Digne at left-back was very encouraging and should not be overlooked. The talented French under-20 World champion continues to improve game after game and, while the rest of his teammates were failing to produce a performance, the 20-year-old served Blanc some food for thought. His lively showing on the left made Cavani look better than he was at times, and the youngster’s industry often deserved a better end product.

It is unfortunate for Digne, but at the same time a pleasant headache for Blanc that PSG possess two talented left-backs in the Frenchman and Maxwell at present. Although the former Lille OSC player has been saying all the right things lately about being happy to wait for his chance on a regular basis, there is no denying that his ability commands a place in the starting line-up. However, while he would arguably get in ahead of a number of players in the first-XI in terms of form, Maxwell’s unerring consistency makes it very difficult to drop the ever-reliable Brazilian.

Overall, it was a poor performance and a poor result. But in the long-term, perhaps it will do the team good to not break any club or Ligue 1 records just yet. It is a great disappointment to lose the chance to remain invincible all season long and FC Nantes' 32-match unbeaten run in Le Championnat stands for now, but this result should serve as a lesson against complacency. It was a totally avoidable defeat as the team had seen the warning signs from this sort of game back in April.

Blanc’s extension of the blame to himself and his staff after the game is admirable but not really necessary in this case as the team was more than good enough to dispose of an opponent with the second worst defensive record in the division. Yet the side with the best attacking figures handed them a blank sheet and suffer a first defeat by a two-goal or greater margin since November 2011. The worst part of the defeat is that Lille close the gap at the top to a single point with the pair’s clash at the Parc des Princes on December 22 looming ever larger; AS Monaco are only one point further back.

No mistakes can be made between now and then, starting with the visit of struggling FC Sochaux-Montbeliard on Saturday.

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