Zlatan Ibrahimovic started the new season in style, but champions Paris Saint-Germain were held to a 2-2 draw by Reims in the opening match of the Ligue 1 season Friday at the Stade Auguste Delaune.
Both PSG and Ibrahimovic experienced mixed fortunes as the Parisiens began their quest for a third straight league title. Ibrahimovic opened the scoring in the seventh minute and hauled his side level with his second in the 63rd minute, but he also fluffed a clear chance and had a penalty saved.
PSG, meanwhile, wasted multiple chances and trailed 2-1 at half-time, and defensive lapses led to goals from Reims' Prince Oniangue and Antoine Devaux. But while Laurent Blanc's side had hoped for a better result in their first fixture, expectations remain high in the French capital.
Having signed high-profile defenders David Luiz and Serge Aurier, PSG are once again overwhelming favourites to claim the Ligue 1 title next spring. As Jimmy Coverdale wrote for Bloomberg Sports:
The club dominated under Laurent Blanc last season much like it dominated under Carlo Ancelotti during the previous campaign – and have improved this summer. The questionable fee paid to Chelsea for David Luiz aside, he and the on loan Serge Aurier (forced into a temporary move for the season as financial fair play regulations kick in) improve an already strong defence – and the club could still improve further of course. In comparison Monaco have lost World Cup star James Rodriguez to Real Madrid and Radamel Falcao could join him, so the transfer window could decide whether there is a title race in France this season as Les Rouges et Blancs make further additions to its squad.
Up next for PSG is a friendly match against Italian side Napoli on Monday. Blanc's side then host Bastia next Saturday. Reims, who finished 11th last season, visit Saint-Etienne next Sunday.
The Parisiens wasted little time in jump-starting their latest title challenge, taking the lead in just the seventh minute against Reims. Almost inevitably, the goal came from Ibrahimovic, who led all Ligue 1 goalscorers last season with 26 goals.
Javier Pastore started the scoring sequence, winning possession in midfield before powering toward the Reims box. Along the edge of the area, the Argentine slotted a precisely angled pass to Ibrahimovic, who finished through Reims goalkeeper Johnny Placide's legs to open his—and PSG's—2014-15 account.
PSG looked set to dominate and quickly created three big chances to double their lead in as many minutes. First, Lucas Moura burst free down the right flank in the 17th minute but failed to pass to Ibrahimovic in the middle before Placide smothered the ball. Ibrahimovic then hit the post with a first-time shot in the 18th minute—moments before drawing a penalty a minute later.
The Swede took the spot-kick himself but shot too close to Placide, who saved to his left to keep Reims within one goal.
Had they finished their chances, PSG could have been out of sight. Instead Reims stunned their visitors with an equaliser in the 22nd minute. Diego curled in a free-kick from the left, bouncing the ball dangerously in the box just in front of PSG goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu. Taking advantage of lax marking, Oniangue redirected the ball into the net with his shin to pull his side level midway through the half.
Blanc's side could hardly believe their luck, but the situation would soon become worse. Reims took the lead in the 34th minute, hitting PSG with a quick counter down the right.
Devaux started and finished the move, passing to Gael Charbonnier along the edge of the box before running onto the return ball near the penalty spot. Sirigu raced off his line in an attempt to clear the danger, but Devaux arrived first and poked in to put the hosts ahead 2-1.
Trailing unexpectedly at half-time, PSG maintained their dominance of possession early in the second half as they searched for an equaliser. Sirigu, however, had to be at his best to keep Reims out in the 52nd minute, swatting away Diego's deflected shot from the left.
It turned out to be a valuable save, with the visitors finding the equaliser in the 63rd minute. Ibrahimovic found the net again, blowing past a defender on the left before lobbing a shot over an off-balance Placide. The Reims goalkeeper attempted to tip the ball out of the net, but replays showed it had crossed the line—though Edinson Cavani followed with a tap-in for good measure.
Now searching for the winner, PSG kept attacking and nearly had a third goal in the 69th minute when Gregory van der Wiel crossed from the right for Pastore. The Argentine midfielder was unmarked in the middle of Reims' box, but he sent his glancing header off target.
PSG kept creating chances in the latter stages but failed to find a winner, although Cavani came close with a near-post header in the 90th minute. Substitute Clement Chantome then had a shot cleared off the line in stoppage time, dooming the visitors to what must be considered a disappointing draw.
|Reims Player Ratings|
|Gaetan Courtet (for Charbonnier, 67')||N/A||6.0|
|Bocundji Ca (for Albæk, 68')||N/A||6.2|
|Christopher Glombard (for Diego, 83')||N/A||6.1|
|Ratings via WhoScored.com|
|Paris Saint Germain Player Ratings|
|Gregory van der Wiel||6.1||6.6|
|Jean-Christophe Bahebeck (for Moura, 72')||N/A||6.0|
|Clement Chantome (for Verratti, 87')||N/A||6.3|
|Ratings via WhoScored.com|
PSG coach Laurent Blanc (via PSG.fr):
We're not ready yet, and we could see it tonight. Despite the result, I think my team played some very good football. We had so many chances to score, too many to count, including a penalty. We didn't kill the game off. We could have after just 20 minutes. We were expecting to struggle in certain areas. We didn't get the result we wanted, but it's still encouraging for the future.
PSG midfielder Javier Pastore (via PSG.fr):
The team played very well. The possession was in our favour and we carved out a lot of scoring opportunities, without being able to score that third goal. We need to keep working, improving, to find the real Paris Saint-Germain.