Paris Saint-Germain managed a narrow 2-1 win over AC Ajaccio at the Stade Francois Coty on Saturday, taking the defending champions five points clear at the top of Ligue 1.
AS Monaco’s 1-1 draw with Montpellier HSC on Friday presented Laurent Blanc’s side with the perfect opportunity to extend their lead atop Le Championnat, but for a while it looked as if they would fail (full match report via ESPN FC).
Eduardo gave hosts Ajaccio a sixth-minute lead, before Ezequiel Lavezzi managed to pull PSG back on level terms shortly before halftime.
With 16 minutes remaining, Blaise Matuidi’s dive header secured the league leaders three points, but it was by no means a convincing performance.
However, PSG coach Blanc was satisfied with the result, even though he felt the performance left a lot to be desired following his team's Coupe de France exploits (h/t ESPN FC):
"It was a very bad start. We were aware that it was a tough match, we had to try and make it as easy as we did in the Coupe de France."
"We were a little tired from Wednesday, so that may be why we were a little slow to start."
"Even though it was a laborious match, we had 71 per cent of possession. What bothered me is that, with every Ajaccio attack, we looked agitated."
"These matches are difficult for everyone. There was a short break, our bodies and minds must get back into the competition."
Here are six things we learned from PSG’s narrow 2-1 win over Ajaccio.
Despite having now played against Ajaccio three times in Ligue 1, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has still not scored against the Corsicans.
However, this time it was not because of the astounding exploits of Mexican international goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa. Instead, it was because PSG created precious few opportunities against Le Championnat’s second-worst defence.
The Swede hammered a free-kick against Ochoa’s right-hand post in the first 45, but otherwise was unable to apply much pressure on the Ajaccio goalkeeper.
He did have a hand in both of PSG’s goals though, providing Lavezzi’s equaliser minutes before halftime, before his header found Blaise Matuidi to nod in the winner.
It has been a taxing week for Ibrahimovic, netting a treble away at Stade Brestois in the Coupe de France on Wednesday, and the 32-year-old looked understandably lethargic in the second half.
One performance does not make a season, but Ajaccio showed that they have it in them against PSG and should be encouraged heading into the second half of the season.
The likes of Guillermo Ochoa (pictured), Johan Cavalli, Benjamin Andre, Paul Lasne and goal scorer Eduardo were impressive, despite the result.
However, it has taken until the league leaders came to town to really put in a performance at home.
More like that and Les Ours, currently an improbable nine points from safety, could yet make a fist of survival.
Ezequiel Lavezzi now has three Ligue 1 goals to his name this season, the same amount as Lucas Moura, but the Argentine has still not thoroughly convinced on the left of the PSG front three.
Moura has provided four assists, while El Pocho is still yet to lay on his first, yet the Brazilian can barely get a look in at present.
Lavezzi cannot keep falling back on the fact that he works hard, which seems the main reason that he has kept his starting role in the past few months, because it is not enough.
While there are others capable of contributing the same number of goals, but who are infinitely more creative, the Argentine international has to do more.
This week he has scored twice (once in Coupe de France), largely thanks to Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s brilliant and unselfish play, yet both matches have passed him by for the most part.
Ajaccio have to use their difficult home venue of the Stade Francois Coty to their advantage more often in the quest to eat up the ground between them and their relegation rivals.
The difference that a raucous and almost full to capacity home crowd made to the side was clear to see. Ajaccio played with confidence and a determination rarely seen so far this term.
PSG admittedly only had three travelling supporters with them, but few clubs would have a large following travelling to face a side rooted to the bottom of Le Championnat.
Whether it is through reduced rates or even free tickets, the difference that seeing a packed home contingent regularly could make to Les Ours’ survival hopes could be massive.
Aside from seeing the odd mention of his name in connection to a few fanciful transfer stories, the chances of having seen anything positive about Javier Pastore’s play for PSG over the last few months are slim.
With 18 minutes to go in Corsica, Laurent Blanc took a risk and turned to the much-maligned Argentine playmaker and introduced him on the left side of the front three.
Inside of five minutes on the pitch, El Flaco produced a moment of sheer brilliance that enabled PSG to win a hard-fought match.
Following some very tidy footwork outside of the area, Pastore clipped a perfect cross onto the head of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the Swede’s cushioned knock-down fell kindly for Blaise Matuidi to score with a brave diving header.
Aside from that, the enigmatic Argentine proved just that, threatening to get involved but also being wasteful in possession.
Considering his recent struggles though, he must cling to that vital piece of involvement and build from here if he wants to salvage his career in Paris or attract interest from another club.
Had Ajaccio possessed a player capable of scoring goals with relative regularity, they might have stood a chance of beating PSG.
They certainly created enough openings to do so, but aside from Eduardo’s well-worked early strike, they were too wasteful going forward.
With Adrian Mutu seemingly out of the picture (although in it here) and out of form in any case, Les Ours badly need more firepower in this transfer window.
Options are limited when you sit rock bottom in Ligue 1. But considering that drop zone rivals FC Sochaux-Montbeliard have just managed to snap up Jordan Ayew on loan from Olympique de Marseille for the rest of the season, there is still hope that they can attract a player of sufficient talent.
Loan signings and free transfers are the best bet for stand-in coach Christian Bracconi, although that lack of a full-time coach could impair Ajaccio’s ability to persuade anyone to risk their reputation to help save the club from relegation.