Ancelotti's side were saved by Gameiro's late strike
Paris Saint-Germain's 1-0 win over defending champions Montpellier, thanks to a late Kevin Gameiro goal at the Parc des Princes on Friday, moves them eight points clear at the top of Ligue 1.
Gameiro, on as a second-half substitute for Clement Chantome, netted an 81st-minute winner when it looked like Carlo Ancelotti’s side were going to be frustrated by La Paillade.
Credit to Rene Girard’s men, they were good value for at least a point and played some fantastic football at times, but their lack of cutting edge let PSG off the hook.
An underwhelming performance from the league leaders but a result that puts the pressure back on Lyon heading into the rest of the weekend’s games.
PSG, though, can now turn their eyes fully towards an enticing Champions League quarterfinal clash with Barcelona on Tuesday.
Here are six things we learned from the match.
It is not the first time this season that Gameiro has proved himself from the bench
Kevin Gameiro once again underlined his credentials to not oust Zlatan Ibrahimovic from Carlo Ancelotti’s starting lineup, but to be given more minutes in regular-season matches from the start.
The French international has six goals in 19 appearances this season—three of which have come as a substitute—and those 19 games only include four starts.
Gameiro is too good to only be a super-sub, and his introduction provided the PSG attacking unit with some much-needed variety having been stymied way before the 25-year-old’s 71st-minute introduction.
The former Lorient man not only demonstrated his value from the bench but the value of the whole squad as PSG struggled to victory with a lethargic performance.
Gameiro as he was recently against Valencia, the spark that the capital club often lack in Ligue 1 matches.
Belhanda impressed at the Parc des Princes
Remy Cabella and Younes Belhanda were unlucky to finish on the losing side on Friday night after an impressive double act almost inspired La Paillade to an unlikely victory in the capital.
Cabella was a constant menace for the PSG defence, and Belhanda, though he has had his doubters this season, was technically superb and once again mastered the hosts’ midfield as he did last season.
Both players possess a brilliant touch, intricate control and beautiful poise when on the ball, but unfortunately, they are now playing for a team lacking the necessary guile in front of goal.
For European sides looking for reasonably priced talent with top potential, they need look no further than these two attacking gems.
PSG need more moments of magic from the likes of Ibrahimovic to look convincing
Though they scrape results on a regular basis, supposedly the hallmark of a top side, PSG need to be more convincing when they do.
There was nothing lucky about Gameiro’s finish from an unselfish Ibrahimovic pass, but the buildup to the goal was rather fortuitous. Jeremy Menez charged down the ball before releasing the Swede after recovering David Beckham’s clipped pass.
PSG may have got the win against last season’s champions, but they dropped points against Sochaux. Reims and Saint-Etienne need to be turned into victories like this one (albeit fortuitous).
Ancelotti’s side often decides matches by virtue of a moment of individual brilliance. For now, results like this are the product of luck and not even a moment of fleeting inspiration. With the talent on show, that needs to change.
Girard's side could have returned to Europe's top stage without such a poor start to the season
On the evidence of their performance at the Parc des Princes, despite losing the likes of Olivier Giroud and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa since last season’s title triumph, Montpellier are still one of the best sides in France.
However, their relatively good recent form counts for little, as they have already likely missed out on any potential Champions League this season.
Not the same squad that won the league last year, but still formidable opposition on form, Girard’s side would likely have been challenging Lyon and Marseille for second and third spot but for an early season blip in form.
This performance illustrates just how strong the crux of last season’s squad was.
What? No Christmas Tree? Ancelotti needs to become more flexible
The phrase “square pegs in round holes” can be used to describe Ancelotti’s team selections currently.
When a first-choice player has not been available, instead of selecting a player of similar qualities, the Italian prefers to play certain members of the squad out of position.
Javier Pastore is regularly deployed out wide on the left despite having no previous experience as a winger, and Chantome often finds himself on the right despite being a central midfielder.
Those selections, particularly in this game, contributed to the hosts losing the midfield battle. That was only possibly disguised by the performances of Blaise Matuidi and Marco Verratti on the night.
Cabella's industry often goes without reward this season
For all of their trickery and, at times, dazzling technical brilliance, Montpellier were too forgiving towards PSG and wasted the chances they had to really test Salvatore Sirigu.
La Paillade play some excellent football and pass in such neat triangles that it was very difficult for PSG to recover the ball, good preparation for Tuesday’s clash with Barcelona. However, a lack a striker in the same mould as Giroud hinders the side.
Gaetan Charbonnier is not of the same quality, and with a lack of prowess in front of goal, Montpellier are lacking the necessary bite to put many teams to bed.