By S. Willis
Away to promoted Strasbourg, PSG fell to their first defat of the season in all competitions but still sit nine points clear atop the table after a thrilling round of matches that saw a bevy of spectacular goals rain down around France…
One of those superb goals brought about the downfall of the league’s longest-running unbeaten streak. Stéphane Bahoken’s near-post blaster on the break clinched the shock 2-1 win for Strasbourg, leaving PSG’s record at 25 matches undefeated in all competitions. A strong run, but hardly reassuring a few days out from the capital club’s crunch UEFA Champions League clash with Bayern Munich.
“Today, we’re disappointed. It’s difficult to keep winning games, to win all the time. Today, the team created a lot of chances, dominated the game,” said PSG boss Unai Emery, who opted to rest key names Edinson Cavani and Marco Verratti ahead of the Bayern clash. “But with two opportunities, we gave Strasbourg the chance to beat us. When you look at all the chances we created, you could say that it wasn’t our day.”
Meanwhile Strasbourg boss Thierry Laurey wasn’t getting carried away despite achieving what no-one else in France noir Europe had done so far this season: “We had a bit of luck, we have to acknowledge that. It was a close-run thing. To beat such a team, all the stars have to align and you have to surpass your limits. We were clinical. The boys played great. They battled like lions, I’m very proud to be the coach of this team. If we don’t get carried away, we can think about staying up. Not because we have beaten Paris, but because we’re improving.”
Back to winning ways
The shock toppling of the league leaders gave the chasing pack everything to play for, and both Olympique Lyonnais and AS Monaco rose to the occasion, returning to winning ways after shock defeats in Week 15. OL had a tough trip to Caen to contend with, but Bruno Genesio’s men proved tenacious – and talented, as club top scorer Mariano Diaz proved with his stunning improvised volley from the edge of the area – and ran out 2-1 winners.
“They are a very difficult team to play against at their own ground, so it was important to show that we had plenty of character and could react after the defeat against Lille,” declared Genesio, who saw Ivan Santini pull one back for the home side late in the piece. “Congratulations to the players. They were very brave this evening. Our play cannot always be flamboyant. Sometimes you also need to just dig deep, defend together and hold on, and that is what we did.”
Meanwhile Monaco had their top scorer Radamel Falcao to thank for bringing their three-match skid to a halt. The Colombian’s header proved the undoing of tough-to-beat Angers SCO in the 1-0 win that took them level with Lyon and, ultimately, Marseille, who had a tough trip to a resurgent Montpellier to deal with.
Montpellier match Marseille
Michel Der Zakarian’s side have surprised many this season – notably becoming the first side to prevent Paris Saint-Germain from winning as they forced a 0-0 draw at the Stade de la Mosson in Week 7 – and they almost got the better of in-form Marseille before danger man Florian Thauvin rescued a 1-1 draw from the spot.
“It’s a match we largely deserved to win; we didn’t get the victory because of certain factors beyond our control, but the content of our play was excellent,” said Der Zakarian, whose eight-placed side boast the division’s most miserly defence. “They had one chance in the match; we defended well but just lacked a little something with our finishing. Marseille had more of the ball than we did, but they just knocked it around at the back, which was no problem for us.”
Bordeaux’s Brazilian star Malcom lit up Les Girondins‘ trip to Dijon with a sublime goal-of-the-season contender from 30 metres out, but Olivier Dall’Oglio’s side have been in free-scoring form of late and proved so once again to take the honours in a 3-2 win and pip their opponent to a place in the top half of the table.
Whereas Malcom’s superlative effort was not rewarded with points, Côte d’Ivoire’s Nicolas Pépé clinched all three for Les Dogues with a clinical curler from the edge of the area. Andy Delort had a late chance to equalise for Toulouse, but Mike Maignan produced the goods to help LOSC climb out of the relegation as they gear up for a clash with Paris in the capital in Week 17.
Vincent Pajot also conjured up a screamer from distance – the midfielder’s missile of a shot going a full 30 metres into the top corner – but, with Emiliano Sala scoring FC Nantes a lucky leveller, it wasn’t enough to clinch Les Verts a first win since Week 9.
Nice, Rennes finding form
OGC Nice seem to be over the worst of their recent form slump, backing up their Week 15 win in Toulouse with a 3-1 beating of bottom club FC Metz, while Stade Rennais FC made it three wins in a row under new coach Sabri Lamouchi, cutting short Amiens SC’s three-match winning streak with goals from Wahbi Khazri (his third in three matches) and captain Benjamin André.
Meanwhile Jimmy Briand clinched a first win in eight matches in all competitions for EA Guingamp with the lone strike in a 1-0 win in Troyes.