Verratti shines as PSG finish 2013 with draw

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Marco Verratti again showed his importance to PSG.GettyImagesMarco Verratti again showed his importance to PSG.

Paris Saint-Germain signed off for 2013 as autumn champions despite being held to a 2-2 draw by Lille at the Parc des Princes on Sunday. The defending champions finish the year top of the table for the third time consecutively and go three points clear at the top of Ligue 1, but were made to fight hard to take a point from Rene Girard's side.

- Ligue 1: PSG salvage draw

Zlatan Ibrahimovic put the hosts in front with a first-half free kick, before Rio Mavuba controversially equalised although he should perhaps have been sent off minutes before for raising his hand to the Swede. Salomon Kalou put Les Dogues in front from the penalty spot early in the second half before a combination of Marko Basa and Thiago Silva provided PSG’s equaliser.

On the balance of play, 2-2 was a fair result. However, Laurent Blanc’s side can feel aggrieved at not having won the game after enjoying plenty of chances. Ezequiel Lavezzi was particularly guilty, squandering a brilliant first-half opportunity, while compatriot Javier Pastore missed a golden chance toward the end of the game. Lille goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama also produced a handful of saves to keep the Parisians at bay.

Despite that, though, it was an entertaining game with both sides putting in maximum effort and it wasn’t for want of trying that PSG were unable to find a way through. Although Blanc’s side scored twice, it was obvious that the team missed Edinson Cavani, who was in Uruguay tending to personal matters. El Matador arguably would have made the difference against a LOSC side deprived of influential defender Simon Kjaer.

Most impressive on the night was Marco Verratti; the Italian and his midfield cohorts Thiago Motta and Blaise Matuidi rose to the occasion when faced with a similarly strong Lille midfield including Rio Mavuba, Florent Balmont and Idrissa Gueye. Verratti stood out in the battle for supremacy in the middle of the park and displayed excellent control, poise and passing, creating a number of openings and almost going alone to score on one occasion.

The 21-year-old has been in impressive form over the first half of the season and he continues to develop at an astonishing pace, displaying a newfound maturity at times. Amazingly, for a player with his disciplinary record, the diminutive midfielder did not even get booked in a game that saw eight yellow cards and was lucky not to see at least one red.

That was arguably the turning point; that a red card was not brandished by referee Fredy Fautrel when it perhaps should have been. Mavuba reacted angrily to Ibrahimovic’s provocation and, in plain sight of the referee, raised his hand to the Swede’s face several times. While Ibra’s actions arguably merited similar punishment, the French international not being ejected from the field of play makes Lille’s equalising goal highly controversial.

Mavuba should not have been on the pitch to score with a relatively straightforward finish after the PSG defence somehow managed to lose track of him. Had he been sent off and arguably if Ibrahimovic had gone, too, Blanc’s men could still have won the game. However, by allowing Mavuba to stay on, Fautrel’s actions affected the game as the LOSC captain went on to enjoy a good performance.

Lucas Digne continued at left-back in the absence of Maxwell, but the former Lille man will be disappointed with his showing against his former side. The 20-year-old conceded the penalty that Kalou converted to make it 2-1 early in the second half with a rash challenge of Franck Beria that ended the Lille man’s evening. Despite not putting a foot wrong for the majority of the evening, that naïve mistake proves that the French under-20 World Cup winner still has a lot of developing left to do, despite some accomplished performances already this season.

Overall, it was a good result against a strong team and PSG can finish 2013 satisfied with what they have achieved so far. Already crowned autumn champions before the game, Blanc’s side finish the year top of Le Championnat and three points clear of second-place AS Monaco, while Lille are a further point behind in third. The champions are six points better off than they were at the same point last season and have scored more goals, conceding only one more. With potential success to come on four fronts, 2014 promises great things for Blanc and his players.

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