Nene at double as Ancelotti starts with win
By D. Crossan
Nene scored twice and Javier Pastore netted his first league goal since October as leaders Paris Saint-Germain beat Toulouse 3-1 at the Parc des Princes to give Carlo Ancelotti the perfect start to his Ligue 1 coaching career.
Ancelotti sprung a surprise with his starting eleven, naming a side that didn’t contain a centre-forward with top-scorer Kevin Gameiro left on the bench alongside fellow French international Guillaume Hoarau. Ancelotti explained afterwards that Gameiro, who returned to training on Wednesday after a knee problem, failed to land a start on medical grounds following consultations with the club's medical staff. PSG missed out on Alexandre Pato of AC Milan in midweek but remain hopeful of signing a striker before the transfer window closes.
Under their new Italian coach the 4-2-3-1 of the late Antoine Kombouaré era has given way to a 4-3-2-1, although the '1' in the system was hard to identify in the opening period as attacking trio Pastore, Nene and Jérémy Ménez, back from a thigh injury, interchanged positions.
PSG struggled to create clear openings against an obdurate Toulouse side, who began proceedings with the joint-best defensive record in the division along with PSG with 17 goals conceded in 19 games. Pastore and Ménez both tested Ali Ahamada, the talented young Toulouse keeper, with powerful near-post efforts, yet PSG had to wait until seven minutes before the break to take the lead.
Nene opens scoring
Serbian international centre-half Milan Bisevac, again named at right-back by Ancelotti, cut the ball back to the penalty spot. Nene elected to switch back on to his weaker right foot and his effort took a big deflection off Toulouse right-back Pavle Ninkov, wrongfooting Ahamada.
Toulouse, now beaten by PSG five times in a row in Ligue 1 play, could not break out of their defensive mindset and were undone in the second period by a vastly improved performance from the capital club, for whom Maxwell enjoyed an assured debut at left-back after the Brazilian’s midweek move from Barcelona.
Pastore back on the goal trail
It was another South American, the Argentinian international Pastore, who scored the second goal on 57 minutes. Ménez and Momo Sissoko were prominent in the build-up and Ménez it was who slid a pass into Pastore, who sprinted away from TFC captain Daniel Congré and planted an accomplished side-footed shot beyond Ahamada’s reach for his seventh league goal of the season and his first since the 4-2 win over Caen in Week 12. Pastore has scored two in two competitive games under Ancelotti, having also netted in the 2-1 Coupe de France win over Locminé last Sunday.
Getting Pastore back to his glittering early-season form is one of Ancelotti’s prime targets as the club chase a first title since 1994. Pastore was involved in PSG’s third goal too, as his chipped ball was headed by Congré straight to Nene, who took the centre-half on on the outside before opening up his body on the right edge of the box and finishing left-footed to join Gameiro on nine league goals.
Gameiro, on as a sub for the last half-hour, spurned a glorious chance within ten minutes of coming on, while Pastore, with a header, and Gameiro’s fellow sub Clément Chantôme could have made the winning margin even greater.
PSG will have been disappointed, however, at their failure to keep a clean sheet with Daniel Braaten tapping home a late consolation for his first goal of the season.
Ancelotti’s side top the table by three points, while TFC dropped a spot to eighth.