Matuidi late show rescues Paris
By S. Willis
A stoppage-time strike from substitute Blaise Matuidi was enough for Paris Saint-Germain to win out 1-0 at home to a tough-defending Evian side and remain ten points clear of second-placed Monaco.
Paris Saint-Germain 1 - 0 Evian TG FC
France midfielder Matuidi played a key role for the capital club after he came on for Marco Verratti (71'), livening up PSG's play going forward and pushing Evian - a man down after Kassim Abdallah's second bookable offence (61') - to breaking point with just seconds left in the match.
Matuidi, played into the Evian area by a sublime Lucas Moura through-pass, produced a deft angled finish that would have left his more storied attacking team-mates in admiration, beating Jesper Hansen (90'+3) and clinching a win that means, come what may, Paris can stitch up the 2013-14 Ligue 1 title with a win in Sochaux on Sunday night.
Tough display from Evian
Before Lyon's defeat of the champions ten days ago, Evian were the only side to have beaten PSG in the league this season and coach Pascal Dupraz didn't hesitate to remind his players of this fact as they looked to clinch a precious point in their bid to beat the drop, which looms just five points beneath them.
Evian's motivation was clear to see from the outset as they took the game to their hosts, with key man Daniel Wass - a six-goal, three assist ever-present for Dupraz this season - crashing a 30-metre shot onto Salvatore Sirigu's post (5') before drawing a superb save from the Italian international 'keeper with a header minutes later (10').
Paris, whose coach Laurent Blanc had opted for a return to a 4-4-2 formation - featuring a diamond-shaped midfield with Javier Pastore playing behind Ezequiel Lavezzi and two-goal Coupe de la Ligue final hero Edinson Cavani - struggled to fin their rhythm in the first half as Evian played skilfully on the counter.
PSG huff and puff
However, Paris claimed the first chance of the second half when teenager Adrien Rabiot - making a rare start alongside Yohan Cabaye and Marco Verratti in the PSG midfield - got in behind the defence and crossed for Lavezzi, but the Argnetine sliced his shot and sent it wide (57').
It was a statement of intent though, and after Abdallah earned his second yellow for a dangerous tackle on Lucas Digne (61'), Paris piled on even more pressure, with Lavezzi getting the best out of Hansen with a curling shot from the edge of the area (67') and his compatriot Pastore latching onto Cavani's lay-off only to see his shot deflected (73').
Matuidi was next in line to try his luck, but in a tight spot in the area was perhaps put off by the proximity of fellow substitute Jérémy Ménez as he fired narrowly wide from close range (81'). With the minutes ticking down, Blanc's men seemed to be losing hope as chance after chance went wide or was saved, but Matuidi's verve and irrepressible forward motion proved the difference as he clinched a dramatic - and possibly crucial - last-gasp win.