Lille OSC managed to hold Paris Saint-Germain to a well-contested 2-2 draw at the Parc des Princes on Sunday to round off 2013 with great entertainment.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s free-kick gave the hosts the lead in the first half, but Rio Mavuba provided one of the game’s main talking points.
Minutes before half-time, he scored the equaliser for LOSC shortly after he could and should have been sent off.
Salomon Kalou’s penalty early in the second half gave Rene Girard’s side the lead, but the defending champions fought back and equalised through captain Thiago Silva with the aid of Lille defender Marko Basa.
In a game that finished with eight yellow cards, four on each side, miraculously nobody was sent off (match report via BBC.co.uk).
The victory moves PSG three points clear of second-placed AS Monaco, and Lille remain four points behind Laurent Blanc’s side.
Le President told PSG.fr (translated from French as a bilingual) that he was satisfied with the result:
"There was a bit of everything this evening" he said. "Our biggest regret is that we did not go in at half-time ahead. I do have much to criticise the team for and I enjoyed the game. I am satisfied."
"We have 44 points at this stage, which is not bad, and people enjoy watching us play."
Following Les Monegasques' surprise 2-1 home defeat to Valenciennes, the side from the capital had already been crowned autumn champions (Ligue 1 leaders at the halfway stage of the season).
Here are six things we learned from PSG 2-2 Lille.
Edinson Cavani’s absence for the match was something of a surprise considering the Uruguayan was neither injured nor suspended. Instead, El Matador is back in his home country taking care of his upcoming divorce.
Laurent Blanc must regret the decision to grant him leave after his side showed a need for more firepower on the night, despite scoring twice. Cavani’s ill-timed absence put extra pressure on Ibrahimovic, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Lucas Moura to fill the void created by his absence.
That proved too difficult a task for the latter two, although Ibrahimovic did score once.
While the Uruguayan’s concerns are understandable and it arguably would have affected his concentration on the match, did it warrant departing ahead of the game? Ibrahimovic did his best to negate the lack of Cavani, scoring a thumping first-half free-kick, but PSG could only muster a draw.
The defending champions’ Coupe de la Ligue clash with AS Saint-Etienne went to extra time without Ibrahimovic in midweek. But Blanc’s men also struggled without Cavani lending substance to the argument that both now need each other.
Their tandem has arguably become the most indispensable feature of the team, aside from the three-man midfield.
So far this season, Vincent Enyeama has been a revelation for Lille. He has already claimed two player of the month awards (October and November) as well as keeping 14 clean sheets in Ligue 1.
Until their 1-0 loss away to Girondins de Bordeaux, it had looked as if the Nigerian international genuinely was invincible.
Following this result, though, his one real weakness has been made clear more than ever.
Enyeama struggles to deal with crosses, and it was his mistake that led to PSG’s equaliser to make it 2-2.
Although it was far from a poor performance, it was not the same imperious Enyeama that we have become accustomed to in Ligue 1 this term.
The 31-year-old did still make an instinctive save from Ezequiel Lavezzi in the first half but looked less impenetrable than he has done at any other point in the season.
It is the first time in three months that Lille have conceded more than one goal, and other Ligue 1 sides will have sat up and taken notice of how to trouble the big Nigerian.
Despite Ibrahimovic and Cavani’s impressive form in front of goal so far this year, PSG still waste too many good chances. Guiltiest of that on the night was Lavezzi who missed an excellent opportunity in the first half, although Enyeama admittedly did well to save his effort.
It is something that has become a recurring theme with the Argentine; his compatriot Javier Pastore also missed what can only be described as a sitter in the second half. Lavezzi, Moura and Jeremy Menez must take every chance they get in order to keep their place in side.
Since scoring against FC Sochaux-Montbeliard, Lavezzi in particular has done little to justify his continued starting position. While Moura and Menez also did not contribute on the night, they have done more often than El Pocho on other occasions this term.
Thiago Silva’s skied first-half effort from just inches away from goal is forgivable as he is a defender. But Lavezzi’s inability to convert when really needed is not as this is not an isolated incident. The Brazilian also made up for it with an equaliser later in game, while the former SSC Napoli man contributed very little.
Late in the first half, a key flashpoint occurred between Lille captain Rio Mavuba and PSG’s Ibrahimovic. Both were lucky to escape with just a yellow card but the Frenchman particularly so as he raised his hand to the Swede’s face directly in front of the referee.
Mavuba then went and scored an equaliser for Lille just minutes later, adding to the controversy.
Ibrahimovic was not totally blameless for his role in incident, but neither was Mavuba, and PSG can feel aggrieved to have seen him score. Had both players seen red, LOSC arguably would not have scored and PSG perhaps could have gone on to win despite Ibrahimovic's absence.
The decision to allow Mavuba to stay on was a turning point in the game, and Les Dogues' captain was instrumental to them leaving the capital with a point.
How many chances can you give a player who continually underperforms and looks worth nowhere near €42 million? That is the problem that PSG coach Laurent Blanc has on his hands with Javier Pastore.
The troubled playmaker served up yet another disappointing performance, albeit one as a substitute, capping it with an appalling missed opportunity late in the game. With such fierce competition for places, it is difficult to see why the 24-year-old should even be given a chance from the bench.
Pastore's desire to play and effort while on the pitch cannot really be faulted at present, but his woeful form is unacceptable, and, at times, it looks as if he has never seen a football pitch.
Somewhere inside the enigmatic playmaker is a brilliantly creative player, but the chances of him rediscovering himself in Paris grow slimmer with every passing match.
Time for a loan move in January? It will have to do as nobody would dare lodge a bid big enough for PSG to consider allowing him to leave while in this sort of form.
For the first time since early September, Lille conceded two goals in a game, and it coincided with the absence of influential defender Simon Kjaer through injury.
The Dane has been an integral part of Rene Girard’s side that have impressed this year, thanks largely to their defensive solidity and his replacement, David Rozehnal, did not look as assured in his absence.
The void left by Kjaer meant Lille were susceptible in the air, and it was no surprise that, without him, Enyeama was exposed, and Les Dogues shipped more goals than usual.
But now the 24-year-old has found himself once again, and Lille have benefitted massively so far from taking a gamble on the Dane who has been one of Ligue 1's outstanding performers so far.