‘It takes the bodies and heads of the players a little while to get back into things’ says Blanc after tepid PSG victory

Paris Saint-Germain were sluggish on Saturday, but in the end came out in better Ligue 1 position anyway with a 2-1 win over Ajaccio following previous Monaco's draw.
Blaise Matuidi, left, scored the winner in the second half for PSG on Saturday. Fred Tanneau / AFP / Topshots
Blaise Matuidi, left, scored the winner in the second half for PSG on Saturday. Fred Tanneau / AFP / Topshots

Paris Saint-Germain were not at their best in their first Ligue 1 game of 2014, but they still managed to extend their lead at the top of the table to five points after coming from behind to beat Ajaccio 2-1.

Bottom club Ajaccio had taken the lead at the Stade Francois-Coty through an early Eduardo goal, but Ezequiel Lavezzi pulled the visitors level before the break and Blaise Matuidi headed in what proved to be the winner after 74 minutes.

It was not a classic performance from Laurent Blanc’s side, but they are now five points clear at the top of the table from Monaco, who were held to a 1-1 draw at Montpellier on Friday.

“We knew this would be a difficult match. We needed to be on top of our game in the opening 20 minutes but we were not, and we switched off and conceded a goal,” said Blanc.

“That galvanised them, but we managed to get the equaliser, and in the second half we had chances to put the game to bed.

He added: “We have had a little break, and it takes the bodies and heads of the players a little while to get back into things.”

Ajaccio, meanwhile, remain rooted to the foot of the table with just one win to their name all season. They have a meagre nine points and are nine points from safety, meaning that avoiding relegation already looks beyond them.

“Paris were there for the taking tonight. It’s especially frustrating as we were not rewarded for our efforts,” bemoaned Ajaccio coach Christian Bracconi.

The Corsicans had developed a reputation as something of a bete noire for PSG in recent times, drawing on each of their previous three meetings with the capital club.

And they took a shock lead after just six minutes, when Mehdi Mostefa’s low ball from the right was helped on by Benjamin Andre and Eduardo converted at the back post.

They could even have increased their lead soon after when Paul Lasne knocked the ball down for captain Johan Cavalli to volley just wide.

However, PSG slowly found their feet and Zlatan Ibrahimovic fired a low free-kick off the base of the post before Edinson Cavani turned and shot narrowly off target.

The equaliser eventually arrived four minutes before the break, Lavezzi slotting home his third league goal of the campaign from an Ibrahimovic assist at the end of a fine move involving Cavani and Matuidi.

Ajaccio remained very much in the game and Eduardo had an effort well saved by visiting ‘keeper Salvatore Sirigu midway through the second period, but PSG finally got their noses in front with just over a quarter of an hour remaining.

Substitute Javier Pastore crossed for Ibrahimovic, and the Swede nodded the ball down for Matuidi to score with a diving header from point-blank range.

Ajaccio still could have come away with something had Lasne not missed the target with a header from Eduardo’s cross, while Cavani almost made it 3-1 with a late effort, only for Guillermo Ochoa to make a fine save.

Lille can close the gap at the top back down to four points if they beat Reims at home on Sunday, while Marseille are also in action on Sunday at Evian.

Elsewhere on Saturday, fourth-placed Saint-Etienne followed a run of five wins from six games with a flat goalless draw at Guingamp, while Bordeaux’s recent unbeaten run was ended in a 1-0 home loss to local rivals Toulouse.

Martin Braithwaite scored the only goal of the game after Wissam Ben Yedder had a first-half penalty saved for Toulouse and both teams had a man sent off in the first half.

Lyon continued their improved form with a 2-0 home win against struggling Sochaux as Clement Grenier and Yoann Gourcuff both scored second-half goals.

Rennes and Nice drew 0-0 while Valenciennes moved to within a point of safety with a 3-2 home win against Bastia, Mathieu Dossevi scoring twice and Ghanaian forward Waris Majeed netting on his debut as Djibril Cisse failed to impress on his Bastia bow.

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Published: January 12, 2014 04:00 AM


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