Paris Saint-Germain will have to wait until their next Champions League clash against Olympiakos to confirm their qualification from Group C after being held to a 1-1 draw at home to RSC Anderlecht. The French champions can ensure their safe passage into the latter stages, as well as seal the top spot, if they beat the Greek side at the end of the month.
The Belgian champions took the lead through Demy de Zeeuw before Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who started despite concerns over his fitness, equalised two minutes after the Dutchman. American international Sacha Klestjan was sent off eight minutes from time, but Anderlecht held on.
PSG created plenty of chances over the 90 minutes but were unable to take the best ones. However, huge credit must go to John van den Brom’s side who looked nothing like the team that shipped five to the Parisians a fortnight ago.
While qualification might be on hold for Laurent Blanc’s side, though, Europa League football is now, all of a sudden, a possibility for Anderlecht. Thanks to Benfica’s defeat to Olympiakos, next week’s clash between Les Mauves and the Portuguese takes on an added importance. But, sticking with PSG 1-1 Anderlecht, here are six things which were learned from the match.
As soon as they fell behind to Demy de Zeeuw’s 68th minute strike, PSG stepped up a gear, and the difference in class between them and Anderlecht quickly became apparent. Within two minutes, Zlatan Ibrahimovic had equalised, and the momentum of the game shifted back into the hosts’ favour.
PSG dominated the game in terms of possession, but for a spell in the first and second half, their visitors looked the more dangerous. Conceding the opener woke Laurent Blanc’s side up, and after the goal, they pushed forward for the winner.
It would have flattered them if they had scored it to win the game, but PSG came close at the end and showed an urgency that was lacking at times when it was goalless. No doubt an element of complacency swept over the team following their 5-0 mauling last time out.
However, the French champions, once again, showed character and battled back. “Maturity” also seems to be a word being associated more and more with PSG these days.
This was a mature performance, despite the result.
Pre-match, few would have predicted that Anderlecht would hold PSG to draw, and you would have been hard-pressed to find many who were confident that the Belgians would even score a goal. However, Les Mauves put in an excellent performance and did exactly what they set out to do pre-match: avoid getting beaten.
The match demonstrated what we have seen flashes of so far in this Champions League campaign. There is some real talent present in this team. However, it is potential talent for the most part.
Cheikhou Kouyate, Dennis Praet, Fabrice N’Sakala and Aleksandar Mitrovic are all burgeoning talents, but they are also extremely young and relatively untested. All looked impressive against PSG, and the team, on the whole, looked of better quality than recent results have suggested.
Thanks to Benfica’s defeat against Olympiakos, the Belgians have the chance to raise their game once again when they host the Portuguese at the end of the month. Considering how well they played in Lisbon, a first victory of the campaign would not be out of the question.
Ezequiel Lavezzi was started in his preferred position on the left of a front three also featuring Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Lucas Moura. However, as happened often last year, he found a number of the key chances falling to him that he failed to take.
Had the Argentine scored one of them, particularly his early opportunity, PSG would, arguably, have gone on to win the game comfortably. He didn’t, though, which is no surprise, considering how flagrant he is in front of goal, but it brings the rest of his performance into focus.
With Lavezzi, you get a lot of running and plenty of determination but little in the way of telling action. More often than not, moves break down when he is involved, and he rarely contributes directly to goals.
It would be unfair to pin the blame for the result squarely on his shoulders, but on reflection, Laurent Blanc should have, perhaps, gone with the more direct threat of Jeremy Menez instead. The Frenchman is a better option than Lavezzi; he is more constructive, runs at defenders and is better in front of goal.
The Argentine could soon find himself warming the bench alongside compatriot Javier Pastore with Moura taking his place in the starting line-up once Edinson Cavani returns to fitness.
Back in 2007, Anthony Vanden Borre was hot property in the football world. Fiorentina beat off stiff competition to sign him from Anderlecht, and he looked set to take Europe by storm.
Six years later, he is back with Les Mauves having joined on a free transfer after moves to Genoa, Portsmouth, Genk and Tavriya Simferopol all failed to work out. Amazingly, Vanden Borre is still only 26 and arguably has the best part of his career still to come.
Yet, seeing him walking out at the Parc des Princes seems like a massive achievement for the one-time Belgian international. Moreover, he put in a good display against PSG and was impressive in Anderlecht’s 3-1 victory over OH Leuven in the Jupiler Pro League last Saturday, despite a late red card.
His second coming in Brussels has been impressive, all things considered, but Vanden Borre has plenty to play for right now. Should his renaissance continue in his home country, he could be the answer to what is seen as Belgium’s most problematic position at right back.
With few obvious choices, outside of one of a number of talented central defenders, Vanden Borre could be the best placed of all Belgian right-backs to make it into Marc Wilmots’ World Cup squad if his form continues to improve. There is a long way to go, though.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been talked about as a potential FIFA Ballon d’Or winner since his incredible four-goal haul for PSG against Anderlecht two weeks ago. However, his below-par performances against Saint-Etienne and then in the return match against the Belgians have since detracted from those claims.
Despite scoring his side’s equaliser, now is the time to temper the Swede’s claims for the title.
Without putting in a performance of the same quality as his virtuoso showing at the Constant Vande Stock, he will not be sweeping the gong.
Considering he was doubtful before the game because of an injury that kept him out of Friday’s 4-0 win over FC Lorient, there is a chance that the mercurial striker is pushing himself too hard.
In the end, he was the difference between a draw and a defeat at the Parc des Princes, but expecting miracles from Ibra every match is hardly realistic.
Olympiakos’ victory over Benfica has given Anderlecht a chance, albeit a small one, to finish third in Group C and qualify for the Europa League. Based on their performances, despite not getting the results that they have, perhaps, deserved at times, they can get something from their last two matches.
One of those crucial games is at home to struggling Benfica, and it is their next Champions League fixture.
Should they beat the Portuguese side, whom they impressed against earlier in the campaign, despite slumping to an eventual defeat, that would put them level on points heading into the final group game.
Assuming they can do that, there is all of a sudden all to play for at the Constant Vanden Stock with a final fixture against a potentially already qualified Olympiakos to finish the campaign.