PSG win ugly to reclaim top spot

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

John Berry/Getty ImagesBlaise Matuidi will have go through the World Cup play-offs with France, then face questions about his future at PSG.

Pre-match, all the talk regarding Paris Saint-Germain's top two clash with Ligue 1 leaders Lyon was who would handle the pressure better on the night. That answer was evident early on at the Parc des Princes on Sunday. Lyon. While the visitors looked calm, collected and assured despite a mini injury crisis, PSG looked shaky and like they were fully aware of the enormous weight of expectation on their shoulders. However, Carlo Ancelotti's plethora of star names came up with the three points despite their visitors' dominance and eventually grew into the role despite never fully convincing.

- Match report: PSG 1-0 Lyon

Blaise Matuidi's goal on the stroke of half-time was enough in the end, and that in itself is the biggest positive for Ancelotti. His side were finally able to grind out the required result in a game where the stakes were highest. They were uncomfortable for large parts of the match, but they beat a title rival to re-take top spot and kept a clean sheet which the Italian could hardly have asked for more. Now on a run of 15 consecutive games in scoring, the result was also PSG's tenth clean sheet of the season. Given that they currently top Ligue 1 on goal difference, that grittiness is something Ancelotti will need his side to perfect before the season is over, having temporarily relieved the pressure on himself with three consecutive wins.

Thiago Silva's performance at the heart of the defence as captain, having now seemingly taken the role from Christophe Jallet, perhaps best illustrates the hosts' strength at the back. The highlight of a commanding show of leadership was his interception when Lyon's Lisandro Lopez was bearing down on goal. From dispossessing the Argentine, Silva turned defence into attack with the ball finding its way to star man Zlatan Ibrahimovic who lofted a perfect cross into the path of Matuidi to head home. It was that simple. Silva makes the challenge, recovers the ball and PSG take it down the other end and score. An expensively assembled supply line provided a crucial goal and three points that proved the difference between the two sides with Silva contributing at both ends.

Otherwise, it was an efficient if unspectacular performance from the hosts. Going forward, there was no sign of the free-scoring form exhibited in both of PSG's previous 4-0 league wins and Javier Pastore in particular, looked profligate. The midfield looks difficult to break down with Thiago Motta in the side, but without Marco Verratti there is a lack of creativity at times. Thoroughly tested by Lyon's constant probing, the backline looked more balanced than it has done of late although the visitors created more chances than their hosts.

What mattered most though was the result. The victory ends the talk of a 'crisis' at least until after Christmas although a tricky Friday night clash with Brest awaits before the Christmas break. More importantly than any of that, being top of the pile once again should end the nonsense speculation surrounding Ancelotti's position at the club. His future has been the subject of speculation recently, but three wins on the bounce will put an end to that. The Italian is the best man to get PSG to where they want to be in European football's hierarchy; the problem is that it will take time in an increasingly impatient, business-orientated sport.

It may not be pretty, but Ancelotti gets results. More performances like tonight's and PSG will win the big games that they are faced with. Over the long-term the Italian will have to improve the aesthetic, but for now, the results will suffice. A win in Brittany and Ancelotti will be flavour of the week once again, but the club and its hierarchy must now let Carletto go about his work in a relatively pressure-free environment.

Three points on Friday will leave les Rouges-et-Bleus only two points worse off than last season's autumn total when Ancelotti was appointed, and considering the changes in personnel since this time last year and the increased competition from Lyon and Marseille, it's an impressive achievement despite the critics who suggest otherwise.

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