Hazard-inspired Lille damage PSG hopes
By A. Scott
Eden Hazard was once again outstanding as LOSC Lille Métropole came from behind to beat ten-man Paris Saint-Germain on Sunday night.
PSG appeared on course for a first win in Lille for 15 years after Javier Pastore gave them the lead early in the second half, but Lille were handed a lifeline when Mamadou Sakho was sent off for bringing down substitute Nolan Roux inside the box and Hazard converted the resulting penalty. Roux then headed home the winning goal for Rudi Garcia's side with 11 minutes remaining as Lille all but sealed third place and moved to within two points of second-placed Paris. The defeat was a double blow for the capital club, with their hold on second place weakened and their chances of overhauling Ligue 1 leaders Montpellier - who are five points clear with four games remaining - looking slimmer than ever.
With so much at stake, a repeat of the tense goalless draw between these teams in December’s reverse fixture at the Parc des Princes might have been feared by the sell-out crowd in Villeneuve-d’Ascq. However, Lille – fresh from five wins in their last six games – came flying out of the blocks and were unlucky not to be in front inside the opening five minutes. Back in the starting line-up at the expense of Roux, Brazilian Tulio De Melo forced a flying stop from Salvatore Sirigu following Lucas Digne’s long throw. The Paris goalkeeper was then called into action again to keep out a long-range Hazard free-kick.
Post rescues Paris
Sirigu then just got to a Dimitri Payet through ball before Hazard but the visitors began to settle and Lille had a lucky escape when a Nenê free-kick from wide on the left was turned against the bar by Pastore. However, Hazard came closer than anyone to finding a way through in the first period, his low drive beating the outstretched arm of Sirigu only to rebound off the inside of the post and spin along the line to safety.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side – who had won just one of their last six away outings – were then dealt a blow just before the interval when Milan Bisevac limped off injured to make way for Mamadou Sakho. However, PSG did not let that change unsettle them and they started the second period on top. They were rewarded with the opening goal in the 48th minute when Christophe Jallet found Kévin Gameiro on the right. Gameiro, who was only brought into the starting line-up after Jérémy Menez pulled out injured, saw his low cross turned away at the near post by Mickaël Landreau but Pastore headed home the loose ball for his 11th goal of the campaign.
What followed was a spell in which PSG totally controlled proceedings and left the home support subdued. As Paris appeared set for a huge win in the title race, Lille coach Garcia responded by introducing Joe Cole and Roux in a bid to breathe new life into his side going forward. With England caretaker manager Stuart Pearce in attendance, Cole would have been eager to seize his chance to impress and it was his ball from deep for Roux which helped turn the game on its head. Having been caught the wrong side of Roux, Sakho hauled down the former Brest striker. Referee Pascal Viléo sent off the defender, and awarded a penalty which Hazard converted to level the scores despite Sirigu diving the right way. It was the Belgian’s 17th Ligue 1 goal of the season, and his eighth from the penalty spot.
Lille went looking for all three points and were rewarded when an outrageous Hazard rabona cross was helped on by De Melo for Roux to head in from point-blank range. A dejected PSG never looked like coming back from that blow and, depending on results elsewhere, they could be eight points off the pace at the top of the table by the time they kick off against Saint-Etienne on Wednesday evening.