PSG's hopes of success on four fronts ended by plucky Montpellier

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Daniel Congre of Montpellier celebrate his goal against PSG.GettyImagesDaniel Congre of Montpellier celebrate his goal against PSG.

Paris Saint-Germain's impressive unbeaten home record of 32 matches across all competitions came to an abrupt end with a 2-1 defeat to Montpellier HSC in the Coupe de France on Wednesday. The current champions were undone by the team that beat them to the 2011-2012 title and now find themselves fighting on just three fronts with a domestic treble now impossible. Laurent Blanc's side were surprisingly wasteful in front of goal, particularly Edinson Cavani, who did net their solitary strike on the night though, and also displayed some uncharacteristically poor defending.

Opting to go with a heavily rotated side, the biggest surprise of the evening was seeing Zlatan Ibrahimovic start on the bench, with Cavani flanked by Lucas Moura and Jeremy Menez. Javier Pastore was restored to his more natural number 10 role that saw him thrive recently in the Coupe de la Ligue against Girondins de Bordeaux, and it initially appeared to work. The Argentine enjoyed a good performance, particularly in the first half. He dictated the pace of the play, orchestrated PSG's best attacking moves and displayed a brilliant range of passing.

Despite the shock of the opening goal, which came through Montpellier defender Daniel Congre and against the run of play, El Falco was instrumental in the hosts' equaliser from Cavani, after some excellent work on the left by Lucas Digne. In fact, the left-back was another impressive performer on the night, constantly providing a threat out wide, linking up well with Jeremy Menez and seeing a perfectly good goal controversially ruled out for offside in the first half.

Moura put in an energetic performance wide on the right, but the Brazilian international once again cut a frustrated figure, even if he was a constant menace. Crushed by the weight of the regular criticism he has received this season, largely undeserved it has to be said, the 21-year-old is struggling to find his best form. When given a precious chance to impress, he finds himself under unnecessary pressure.

That was the extent of the limited positives for Blanc and the side from the capital though.

Cavani, effectively playing alone up front until the introduction of Ibrahimovic in the second half, was guilty of missing PSG's best chance to avoid defeat. El Matador may have scored with one easy opportunity, but he missed an even easier opening just minutes later in the first half, an error that went on to prove extremely costly.

It would be unfair to blame the outcome of the match completely on Cavani's fluffed chance though. Congre's first goal for Rolland Courbis' Ligue 1 strugglers came against run of play, also featuring some poor goalkeeping from Nicolas Douchez. The Frenchman also struggled for the second, a Victor Montano header, with both goals coming from set pieces.

Blanc may well consider overlooking the unspoken rule of playing the second choice goalkeeper in both domestic cups for the Coupe de la Ligue semi-final against FC Nantes at the start of February when PSG can ill afford to slip up again.

Menez also came in for fierce criticism, but is not solely to blame for the result as many of the fans at the Parc des Princes suggested when deciding to boo him off in the second half. The French international has struggled this season and has become a scapegoat during any below-par performances, mostly in the Coupe de France. But the 26-year-old has showed more effort in recent weeks when given a rare chance to impress and his early showing on the night was actually very encouraging. Menez demonstrated a good rapport with Digne, although it eventually dissipated, so he will need to seize any future chances in the starting XI as they are likely to be at a premium between now and the end of the season.

However, the Frenchman was hardly single-handedly responsible for the team's failure to at least take the game to extra time or to perhaps win it.

This Coupe de France exit will be deemed an acceptable failure though if PSG can instead make it to the Coupe de la Ligue final at the start of next month. Not doing so will result in a drastic re-evaluation of Blanc's actual success by the hierarchy, given last year's superior showing in this trophy.

Le President has plenty to mull over between now and the Nantes clash, not least the uncharacteristic naive defending of set pieces exhibited by his players and the disappointing loss of shape in the second half.

The need for further strength in depth, particularly in midfield, has also never been clearer.

Overall though, the champions are still in with a chance of winning three pieces of silverware this season and a domestic league and cup double would be major progress on last season's Championnat title.

Progress past the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals is still required, but if there was one trophy PSG could afford to lose their concentration on, it was arguably this one. That does not make the disappointing nature of the defeat easier to digest though.


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