Sochaux vs. Paris Saint-Germain: 6 Things We Learned
Paris Saint-Germain will have to wait a little while longer to secure their fourth Ligue 1 title after a 1-1 draw against FC Sochaux-Montbeliard on Sunday at Stade Bonal saw their lead at the top of Le Championnat cut to just eight points.
Edinson Cavani’s brilliant 24th-minute strike had given Laurent Blanc’s men a deserved half-time lead, but the hosts struck back through a second-half Thiago Silva own goal in a pulsating encounter. Both sides had the chance to win the match in the second 45, but both goalkeepers contributed toward an eventual 1-1 draw.
With PSG and second-placed AS Monaco not in action next weekend, the capital club must wait until the following Wednesday to potentially secure the title at home to Stade Rennais.
3 - PSG are winless in their last three away games (Chelsea, Lyon & Sochaux), their longest drought this season. Stuttering.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) April 27, 2014
The point helps Sochaux though, who continue their impressive recent form as they battle to avoid relegation.
Herve Renard’s men are one of Ligue 1’s in-form teams of late and now trail 17th-placed Evian Thonon Gaillard by just four points with nine left to play for.
Blanc revealed his disappointment to PSG.fr shortly after the final whistle.
"We came here looking for all three points, so we're disappointed with the result. We were a long way from our best and Sochaux played very well," he said. "We started brightly, we scored a very nice goal, but it wasn't enough."
"They caused us real problems in the second half, they equalized and we didn't do enough to win it. The draw was the right result."
Here are six things we learned from PSG and Sochaux’s 1-1 draw.
Sochaux Worthy of Ligue 1
Based on the evidence of their draw with PSG, Sochaux deserve to stay in Ligue 1. Les Lionceaux are finally showing their teeth now, but why was this not the case earlier in the season?
Renard’s side were fearless in their approach and took the game to PSG. Although their equaliser was fortunate—with the ball going in off Silva after the unconvincing Salvatore Sirigu had attempted to punch a deflected cross to safety—it was no less than they deserved.
Sochaux started the game brightly but faded after Cavani opened the scoring. Once they drew level though, that original energy and belief were back.
4 - number of teams unbeaten at home against PSG & Monaco in Ligue 1 this season: Evian TG, Montpellier, St Etienne, Sochaux. Bastion.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) April 27, 2014
The hosts displayed impressive heart, not to mention a desire to survive, and if they can replicate this in their final three fixtures, then they should be able to survive.
PSG's Wait Goes On
As for PSG, they passed up a chance to secure the title. Although they also contributed to a riveting spectacle, creating a number of chances of their own, the Parisians were generally poor in front of goal on the day and did not show the necessary urgency in a game of such importance.
In reality, an eight-point lead over Monaco at this point is still as good as having won the Ligue 1 title. The problem, though, is that PSG could have been ended the race with a victory. They are showing staggering complacency approaching the final few matches.
Winning the title against Rennes at home in 10 days’ time means that the capital club will have won it at the same point that they did last season, with two games left. That success is far from assured in the team’s current form though, and they will have to show far more desire at the Parc des Princes.
The good news for Blanc and his team is that star man Zlatan Ibrahimovic might be back by then.
The Renard Effect
Sochaux’s recent good form is the product of many things, but the Renard effect is something that Les Lionceaux president Laurent Pernet was hoping for when he appointed the 45-year-old as coach back in October.
Now in form at the right time, FCSM are hoping to ride the crest of the wave that has been built up by the Frenchman over the past two months. Since the start of February, they fought back from being cut adrift at the start of 2014.
Prior to the match, Sochaux were fourth in the Ligue 1 form table based on their form over the past 10 games. The draw with PSG will have done that impressive record no harm, but with three winnable games remaining, an unbeaten run is now imperative.
Sochaux are due to play Evian at home on the final day of the French season. With four points currently separating the pair, Renard and his side’s quest for survival could come down to that final encounter.
Blanc’s Limitations Exposed
Of greatest concern for PSG and of particular importance at this moment—considering the debate that surrounds his potential future in the capital—is that Parisian coach Blanc’s limitations appear to have been well and truly exposed.
Prior to the 2-0 defeat to Chelsea in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League quarter-final, the team was already looking predictable. Wins of 1-0 over FC Lorient and OGC Nice papered over the cracks that had started to appear, and those cracks have widened since.
There was no reaction to Sochaux’s equalising goal from Blanc. Instead, Le President threw on Marco Verratti in place of the underperforming Yohan Cabaye—one of the like-for-like changes that he is so fond of. The coach failed to change PSG’s formation at any point.
It was the same in the laboured 1-0 win over Evian on Wednesday and against Olympique Lyonnais in the Coupe de la Ligue final after OL had pulled a goal back.
There is no Plan B because when Plan A works then it usually works extremely well. That is no longer the case, and Blanc needs to develop a new strategy and quickly; otherwise his position will once again come under heavy scrutiny.
On this evidence, that criticism is well-founded.
Although PSG enjoyed a plethora of chances and arguably should have taken at least one of them to win the match, they were also denied by an impressive individual display from Sochaux goalkeeper Yohann Pele.
The 31-year-old put in arguably his best performance since returning to action after a four-year absence with a pulmonary embolism. In that first part of his career, the Frenchman played at senior level for les Bleus and was linked with a number of moves to big European clubs.
It is easy to see why he was so highly rated in France and abroad on this evidence.
However, should he have even been on the pitch to make the string of impressive saves that he did?
The Sochaux keeper can consider himself lucky not to have been sent off in the first half, charging out of his goal and taking down Lucas Moura outside of the box. It was similar to the incident that saw PSG win—and score—a crucial penalty in the 2-1 League Cup win the weekend before, but this time the spot kick was not given.
PSG can feel aggrieved at not having been given the penalty as is certainly looked like a foul on the Brazilian, but should perhaps remind themselves of what happened at the Stade de France.
What goes around comes around.
Following Blanc’s comments regarding PSG captain Silva's recent loss of form, per ESPN FC—attributing it to the Brazilian star’s fear of missing the FIFA World Cup through injury—further scrutiny over the 29-year-old’s recent showings will likely be forthcoming after this latest shaky performance.
He once again looked far from calm and authoritative at the heart of the PSG defence and put one through his own net for the third time this season to hand Sochaux a valuable and well-deserved point.
3 - Thiago Silva is the third player to score more than one own goal in Ligue 1 this season after Anthony Weber & Aissa Mandi. Oops.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) April 27, 2014
The Selecao star has been one of the team’s most consistent performers over the past two seasons, but this recent spell of subpar form is of concern for Blanc and PSG. The former AC Milan player will not see himself dropped, but his coach does appear to have a point regarding his recent trepidation when on the pitch.
Similar things have also been said of Cavani since the start of 2014.