Bodmer strikes as PSG return to summit
By A. Scott
Despite a whole host of chances, a first-half Mathieu Bodmer header proved to be the only goal of the game as Paris Saint-Germain won 1-0 at Saint-Etienne to move clear at the top of the table once again.
Bodmer headed in a Nenê left-wing corner just after the half-hour mark at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, with the ball hitting the post and taking a decisive touch off Stéphane Ruffier's glove before nestling in the net. The win, after arguably Paris' best all-round team performance of the campaign, allowed the capital side to end the year sitting proudly at the top of the table, three points clear of Montpellier. Saint-Etienne, meanwhile, slip back to eighth after seeing their six-match unbeaten run come to an end.
Visiting coach Antoine Kombouaré resisted the temptation to make any changes to his side following Sunday's goalless home draw with Lille, and Zoumana Camara again sported the captain's armband in the continued absence of Mamadou Sakho due to injury. The hosts made just one change from the side that won 2-1 at Dijon, with the suspended Banel Nicolita being replaced by Bakary Sako.
Christophe Galtier's side had managed at least two goals in each of their last five outings - their most prolific spell in the top flight since 1980 - but they missed Nicolita's service here. In the driving rain at a Chaudron whose three stands were packed to the rafters, Sainté pumped cross after cross into the PSG area, and forced a remarkable 16 corners, and yet time and again the delivery was not up to scratch.
When they did produce a final ball, they came up against an inspired Salvatore Sirigu in the visitors' goal. The Italian saved from Florent Sinama-Pongolle's close-range attempt, but PSG had their moments at the other end. A vital sliding tackle from Sylvain Marchal denied Kévin Gameiro and the Saint-Etienne captain then cleared off the line from Javier Pastore after the Argentine had rounded Ruffier.
Bodmer's goal arrived on 32 minutes, with the former Lyon man allowed the space by Jean-Pascal Mignot and displaying his aerial prowess with a header that the unfortunate Ruffier just couldn't keep out. He did save a Christophe Jallet thunderbolt soon after though as PSG came close to doubling their lead before the interval.
Les Verts were practically camped inside the opposition half in the second period, but still the service was not up to scratch, with the exception of a Sako cross that Sinama-Pongolle managed to head away from goal before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's follow-up was saved by Sirigu.
Gameiro hit the outside of the post at the other end, before Sirigu made a crucial intervention to deny Aubameyang, who has still to score at home in the league this season.
Jérémy Menez and Gameiro then both missed chances, but Sirigu made sure the points were heading back north, saving well from Sinama-Pongolle five minutes from time. Sako also saw a powerful shot flash just past, as this vibrant encounter somehow ended just 1-0.