Nene, Pastore edge PSG closer to top spot
Paris Saint-Germain moved to within three points of leaders Montpellier Hérault SC as Nene's 17th Ligue 1 goal of season and a Javier Pastore strike gave the club from the capital a 2-0 win over AS Saint-Etienne on Wednesday.
Paris Saint-Germain 2 - 0 AS Saint-Etienne
PSG had seen LOSC Lille Métropole move ahead of them earlier in the evening, but reclaimed second place - and took advantage of Montpellier's draw at home to Evian TG FC 24 hours earlier - thanks to their Brazilian midfielder's 21st-minute penalty and their Argentine international's 12th L1 strike two minutes from time. Saint-Etienne, who came into the game on the back of three successive victories and a four-match unbeaten run, offered little attacking threat as their hopes of finishing fourth and clinching a place in next season's Europa League were dealt a blow.
The rain pouring down on the Parc des Princes prior to kick-off seemed to bode ill for the hosts, but given the chance to close on the leaders, Carlo Ancelotti's men seemed determined to seize it. Jérémy Menez was particularly lively, and after having fired a shot wide, he was felled by Sylvain Marchal to afford Nene the opportunity to send Stéphane Ruffier the wrong way from the spot. When Les Verts' captain Loïc Perrin limped off shortly afterwards, the visitors' evening took a further turn for the worse.
Having been beaten by one former Monaco team-mate, Ruffier was trumped by another, Menez, before the break only for the woodwork to come to his rescue. Conversely, it was a former Saint-Etienne player who denied the visitors an equaliser as Zoumana Camara, restored to central defence in place of the suspended Mamadou Sakho and injured Milan Bisevac, cleared Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's goalbound chip.
PSG would have doubled their lead - and in some style - before the break when Mathieu Bodmer acrobatically sent a volley zipping goalwards only for an equally spectacular stop from Ruffier to deny the former Olympique Lyonnais midfielder and keep Saint-Etienne within touching distance of their hosts.
They would have inched level had Banel Nicolita managed to connect with Fabien Lemoine's cross just after the break - the Romanian came up marginally short after launching himself full-length in front of PSG 'keeper Salvatore Sirigu. The Italian was beaten soon after by the pace of Aubameyang, but having reached Bakary Sako's pass before the PSG custodian and then rounded him, the Gabonese international saw the ball zip away to safety off the sodden turf.
With a cooler finish, Javier Pastore might have doubled his team's lead, but the Argentine shot wildly over the bar after Nene's cut-back had found him well-positioned in the box. Menez did find the target - of sorts - with a shot soon after, but the side rather than the back of the net halted the ball's progress. Pastore did find a way beyond Ruffier in the closing stages, firing home from Christophe Jallet's cross to leave PSG within touching distance of the leaders.