PSG vs. Bastia: 6 Things We Learned
It wasn't a classic, but Paris Saint-Germain eventually overcame Bastia 3-1 Friday despite a late scare at the Parc des Princes. Goals from Jeremy Menez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ezequiel Lavezzi saw the capital club home, but Wahbi Khazri's sumptuous late strike had them sweating.
Although the big names are there on the score sheet for the hosts, Ibrahimovic, Lavezzi and Blaise Matuidi were saved until after the hour mark by coach Carlo Ancelotti, who was keeping one eye on Tuesday's Champions League clash with Valencia.
It was a determined showing by PSG's Corsican visitors, and for the best of the match they had their illustrious opponents struggling.
The result, whilst convincing in score, was not thoroughly convincing in performance, and without their main stars PSG remain frustrating to watch at times. The result, though, moves Ancelotti's side six points clear of second-placed Lyon ahead of Sunday's crucial clash with Lille, giving the side some breathing space.
1. PSG Are Not Infallible
Salvatore Sirigu's superb record run of games without conceding a goal finally came to an end at 948 minutes. It was bound to happen eventually, but it took a worthy goal to pry the record from his fingertips.
Wahbi Khazri's sensational long-range free-kick took the Italian by surprise seven minutes from time. It is a good thing that the record has now passed in some ways. PSG at times have lapsed into sloppy defending, safe in the knowledge that Sirigu will keep out most of what gets through. The end of this record proves to Carlo Ancelotti's side that they are not invincible.
The goal should rid the capital club of their complacency, and the ensuing panic should illustrate to them that composure despite conceding a freak late goal when least expecting it is of paramount importance.
Khazri's goal almost led to another immediately afterward as the PSG players struggled to digest the first. Ancelotti's side need to learn to take these things in stride.
2. Florian Thauvin
One positive for Bastia to take from the game is the form of highly rated French youngster Florian Thauvin. Although the 20-year-old will join Lille at the end of the season, Thauvin's form has been impressive and, along with Anthony Modeste's goals, likely looks like the difference between Bastia staying up and going down.
Not of the same outstanding class as the Belgian but capable of perhaps coming close to emulating his form for les Dogues in the coming years, Thauvin is one of the closest things that Ligue 1 has to replacing Eden Hazard. Given PSG's lack of investment in domestic talent, it is amazing that the capital club did not make a serious offer for Thauvin before he was snapped up.
3. Lack of Midfield Authority
Time after time on Friday it was obvious that PSG needed some creativity from midfield. Despite the presence of Javier Pastore and Marco Verratti, there was no impetus going into the final third and the attackers were having to drop back to collect the ball.
This is where David Beckham's arrival might help the team in an immediate sense. Whilst anchoring the team with two men in midfield, Ancelotti needs one with either a wide range for passing whilst the other is able to patrol the middle of the pitch.
The former England captain would have been ideal in a game like Bastia, probing for a way to set free some of the team's fast runners, enabling PSG to dominate the game from there.
4. Lucas Moura
Lucas Moura was not expected to have an impact as soon as he arrived in January. Rather it was expected that he'd be gradually introduced to the first team little by little. The Brazilian is now already a key player and his performance against Bastia underlined those credentials once again.
The 20-year-old at times led the team forward when they looked sluggish in the midfield, and his pace injects vibrancy into PSG's play that had not been seen before his arrival. His relationship with Zlatan Ibrahimovic appears to be blossoming game by game, an added bonus for Ancelotti.
5. Eight Wins from Nine Matches
After a dour 0-0 home draw with Ajaccio to open 2013, the capital club have stepped up the pace and are now leaving their rivals behind as the quality in the team begins to tell. Having struggled for so long to get a firm grasp of the top spot, Ancelotti's side are now in the driver's seat with eight wins in their last nine games.
The style in which PSG are now winning is also impressive. They have scored nine goals in their last four league games and have rediscovered the potent form that they were showing before Christmas.
6. PSG Starting to Win with Weakened Sides
More importantly, Carlo Ancelotti can now field weakened sides or mixed teams depending on his squad rotation and still achieve the same result. The Italian made five changes against Bastia from the side that thumped Toulouse last week and they still won convincingly.
Admittedly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ezequiel Lavezzi did come off the bench to score, but that was a product of the chances being created by the side. With a little less intricacy, PSG will continue to be as efficient, if not more, before the season finishes.
The early goal still seems to be an issue, though. If the team score first, then they will go on to dominate the match. If they don't score early, though, the players become self-destructive.