Reims vs. Paris Saint-Germain: Winners and Losers from Ligue 1 Opener
Paris Saint-Germain and Stade de Reims got Ligue 1 back underway on Friday, and the French champions were held to a 2-2 draw in miserable conditions at Stade Auguste Delaune. Despite taking a 1-0 lead inside of 10 minutes, PSG were pegged back and trailed, 2-1, at half-time before levelling the score in the second half.
It was an eventful night for les Parisiens’ Zlatan Ibrahimovic, scoring twice—the second was given to him although it looked like a possible own goal—but also missing a penalty and the easiest of first-half chances. But goals from Prince Oniangue and Antoine Devaux had Reims in front by half-time, sandwiched by both of the Swede’s strikes.
Per OptaJean on Twitter: "4 - Paris SG have failed to win their opening league game for the 4th consecutive season. Snail."
The draw is the fourth time PSG have failed to win the opening match of a season since Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) took over in 2011, with their record now reading: drawn three, lost one. Despite that, though, French coach Laurent Blanc was relatively satisfied, considering he was still without a raft of FIFA World Cup representatives. After the final whistle, the 48-year-old revealed to 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.
Overall, the point will be a disappointing one for the capital club—especially considering how well PSG played for the first 25 minutes or so—but as last season showed, the opening day result matters little in the grand scheme of things.
Here are the winners and losers from Reims 2-2 PSG.
Winner: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Despite missing the easiest of chances and a penalty in the first half, Ibrahimovic still comes out of PSG’s 2-2 draw with Reims as a winner somehow.
The Swede put the finishing moves on an excellent piece of play from Javier Pastore inside of seven minutes and managed to score an unorthodox—although simply sublime—equaliser after 62 minutes.
It took the 32-year-old four games to register his first Ligue 1 goal last season and six games until he bagged his second. This season, it has taken Ibrahimovic just one game to open his account for the campaign, and he has scored two goals in as many consecutive matches following his master class in last week’s Trophee des Champions triumph.
Per MisterChip on Twitter: "Most doubles in the French League in the last 15 years: 30] Pauleta (in 266 games) 16] IBRAHIMOVIC (68) 15] Cissé (201) 14] Nené (142)"
Dare to Zlatan.
Winner: Jean-Luc Vasseur
Although his team were eventually held to a draw, Reims coach and former PSG youth chief Jean-Luc Vasseur performed admirably well in his Ligue 1 debut.
Having seen a couple of talented players leave over the summer—notably the vastly underrated Grzegorz Krychowiak—the 45-year-old has managed to keep hold of the majority of Reims’ squad that were so impressive under former coach Hubert Fournier.
It was two of those players, Oniangue and Devaux, who scored for the hosts, and Vasseur’s tactics—conducive to entertaining football—got the best out of his star men.
Nicknamed the French Jose Mourinho, the former US Creteil-Lusitanos coach has made a solid start to his top-flight coaching career.
Winner: Javier Pastore
Although he did not have a sensational game, Javier Pastore enjoyed an encouraging first half and still provided two assists for Ibrahimovic’s goals.
By the enigmatic playmaker’s standards, that is a good display, and PSG should view it as a source of positivity and not expect more at this stage. Taken into account alongside his form at the end of last season—he contributed three assists in the two final games—and pre-season, el Flaco is finding form.
If Pastore can continue his renaissance and steadily improve in the quality of his performances, then he will be like a new signing for les Parisiens.
Loser: Edinson Cavani
PSG’s Edinson Cavani had a lot to prove before the clash with Reims and did very little toward that with a woeful performance.
The Uruguayan once again looked a shadow of his former self as his dreadful 2014 continued with a goalless showing that suggested little has really changed since last season for him personally. There was more interaction between Cavani and strike partner Ibrahimovic in central areas, yet the South American was still wasteful in front of goal.
Plenty is made out of the fact that Cavani is often asked to play out wide for PSG, but one inescapable reality is that when in front of goal—centrally or not—he often misses the target in this current malaise.
The problem is not Cavani’s positioning, it appears to go deeper than that. The 27-year-old simply does not look comfortable on a football pitch right now.
Loser: Laurent Blanc
Although the sheer volume of international players returning he has had to deal with this week tied his hands, PSG coach Laurent Blanc made a number of incorrect decisions in the 2-2 draw at Reims.
Playing captain Thiago Silva so soon after his return to training was risky and did not pay off. The Brazilian was poor, and the PSG defence lacked its normal assuredness and impenetrability.
Also questionable was the decision to start a semi-fit Lucas Moura—who has been struggling with injury for the last couple of weeks—over in-form youngster Jean-Christophe Bahebeck.
Both decisions were at fault, and had PSG lined up with two fully fit players in those positions, then perhaps the score would have been different. As it was, Silva’s performance was so lacking in authority that it made PSG look as if they are crying out for much-maligned new signing David Luiz to return to action.
Loser: Jean-Christophe Bahebeck
Bahebeck was another player to lose out on the day. Despite his excellent pre-season form, both he and fellow academy graduate Hervin Ongenda found themselves on the bench for the opening game, and the former would have been disappointed as he watched Lucas put in a frustrating performance.
The PSG youngster has been in fine goalscoring form this pre-season, and you would have thought that now was the perfect time to give him a chance to prove himself in Ligue 1—before the capital outfit are back to full strength.
Blanc did not agree and started with Bahebeck on the bench. The 21-year-old’s direct approach could have helped PSG take advantage of their good spell of pressure early on, but instead he was only handed a short 18-minute cameo.