Limp PSG go down to hard-working Reims

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

"We're not built for this kind of match," was sporting director Leonardo's limp verdict on Paris Saint-Germain’s disappointing 1-0 defeat to relegation threatened Reims at the Stade Auguste Delaune on Saturday.

Well, if they are not built to be capable of beating a newly promoted side while needing points to maintain a slender lead at the top of Ligue 1, then what exactly is the team built for? Saturday's performance -- for all the recent bluster and hyperbole -- was that of a team that is highly complacent and capable of throwing away a title that should easily be theirs.

- Video: Reims 1-0 PSG (UK and Ire only)

A lineup featuring Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Lucas Moura, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Javier Pastore and a whole host of le Championnat's most talented players should easily collect three points from a side like Hubert Fournier's on any given day. The aforementioned players were guilty of underperforming, but in truth, nobody was exempt from criticism on a day when PSG voluntarily surrendered their advantage in the title race to allow Lyon right back into it.

David Beckham, too, for all of the recent praise and celebration, was distinctly below-par. A product of too many games in too many days, despite the many advantages he brings on the pitch, his shortcomings at the age of 37 were laid bare for all to see in the Champagne country. The Englishman played 25 minutes but was ineffectual, as were most of Carlo Ancelotti's players, and his involvement now raises doubts over his possibility to start in place of the suspended Marco Verratti next Wednesday when Valencia visit in the Champions League.

Huge credit must go to Fournier's Reims side, though. They played fantastically well for 90 minutes, half an hour of that with just 10 men, and fought for everything matching their opponents in every department and dwarfing them in terms of desire and commitment. The capital club should take a lesson from this -- to be more like Reims; to show more heart on the pitch. That way, the inevitable barrage of criticism that comes their way tomorrow and early next week will not sting so much, or happen at all.

With so many players underperforming it would be unfair to single out key individuals in such an undesirable display. Yes, Ibra was disappointing but that doesn't mean it is entirely his fault. He did have a goal disallowed so it wasn't for lack of trying. Beckham, Pastore, Lavezzi, Marco Verratti and Mamadou Sakho, everyone from the defence to attack played below their potential, and because of that, there are very few positives to take from the game, except for the fact that Lyon can only draw level at the top of the table -- kept apart by virtue of PSG's far superior goal difference.

One of the few players exempt from blame perhaps would be Blaise Matuidi. He put in a typically consistent and determined display, but even so, it still lacked the same authority as usual. Lavezzi, too, was energetic but that counts for little when you miss as easy a chance as he did towards the end of the first half. The Argentine raced through on goal having evaded a challenge on the halfway line and with only Reims goalkeeper Kossi Agassa to beat, he stroked it wide.

Too many players had an eye already on next week's Champions League clash with Valencia. Admittedly, this week has been draining on the club's resources with two massive clashes with rivals Marseille and then a trip to Reims inside of seven days; however, it appears to be a recurring theme that the club lose focus around the time of European clashes. Defeats to Saint-Etienne, Rennes and Nice all preceded continental games while the defeat to Sochaux followed one.

Ancleotti's side have to learn the value of taking every match seriously and grinding out results against those fighting for their lives. It is different now to how it was earlier in the season. The league table is starting to set now and teams like Reims are scrapping to stay up (and deserve to on this evidence). The league will not be won by beating Marseille and then losing to a side battling relegation. That is how a title is lost.

One hallmark of the Italian's early reign was winning ugly. If PSG want that first title in 19 years, they have got to rediscover that touch soon. Valencia on Wednesday will likely see the players raise their game, but the following Saturday will be another test. ASNL will be buoyed by their victory over Sochaux and will have renewed hope of getting a victory at the Parc des Princes. They did last year so who is to say they won't again?

A disappointing end to a very positive week, the players need to prove that it was a one-off.

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