PSG win but crash out of Europe
Paris Saint-Germain produced a late surge to beat Athletic Bilbao 4-2 on Wednesday night but their Europa League qualification hopes were dashed after rivals Salzburg beat Slovan Bratislava 3-2 in Slovakia.
UEFA Europa League Group F, Matchday 6
Paris Saint-Germain 4 - 2 Athletic Bilbao
PSG needed a good start to set the tempo and unfortunately for the Parc de Princes faithful just the opposite occurred. A mere two minutes in, Nicolas Douchez in the home goal was forced into a smart save to thwart Ibai Gomez. That served as a warning that the Basques meant business and from the resulting corner Jon Aurtenetxe opened the scoring to silence the Parisian crowd, the 19-year-old stealing a yard on Slyvain Armand before sending a glancing header in off the post beyond Douchez (3’).
The visitors dominated the opening quarter and it looked as if PSG were going to be in for a long and disappointing night. Midway through the half news may have filtered through from Slovakia that Bratislava were leading Red Bull Salzburg 2-0. This now meant that PSG needed to just draw to go through, whatever the reason the hosts levelled the scores. Nenê was the catalyst; after winning a free kick 25 metres out the Brazilian swung the ball into the area where local boy Jean-Christophe Bahebeck mistimed his header but it mattered not as Javier Pastore was in the right place at the right time to fire the ball home and give the hosts hope (21’).
With half an eye on Bratislava, who were squandering their two goal lead, PSG seized the advantage in Paris and again Nenê was at the centre of things. This time the Brazilian’s corner found Mathieu Bodmer whose expertly placed header nestled in the back of the net (41’). News from Slovakia wasn’t good, Salzburg were level once again but as the scores stood at half time it was still the French side who were going through.
Bilbao back on track
Ten minutes into the second half things turned for the worse for PSG as Salzburg took the lead against Bratislava rendering the Parisians’ efforts pointless; even if they won they would still be eliminated. In a strange coincidence just moments after the Austrians took the lead 900 kilometres away, Bilbao equalised in Paris. David Lopez found himself in space after a great through ball from Ander Iturraspe, his effort then took a deflection off Zoumana Camara and Douchez was left with the task of picking the ball out of the back of the net (55’).
PSG rallied and thought that they had a penalty with 13 minutes to go; Nenê (once more in the centre of everything) felt that his cross had struck the arm of Auternexte only for the referee to wave play on (77’). The hosts’ perseverance paid dividends and a few moments later they got their penalty after Mikel San Jose’s was adjudged to have blocked a Nenê cross with his arm, the Brazilian then blotted his copybook by blasting the spot kick over the bar (84’).
The former Monaco man’s blushes were spared when PSG finally took the lead thanks to an Inigo Perez own goal (88’). The effervescent Nenê then won a second penalty in the dying moments after being tripped by Iturraspe. This time substitute Guillaume Hoarau (playing in his first game since August) stepped up to make it four and put a coating of gloss on the result (90’).
PSG were good for their win but events elsewhere condemned them as Salzburg qualified for the knockout stage due to that their superior head-to-head record against the French side; a 3-1 defeat in Paris paired with a 2-0 home win saw the Austrians go through, essentially on away goals. Antoine Kombouaré will need to pick his side up and fast, champions Lille are on the menu this weekend.