PSG made to work for Nice draw
Carlo Ancelotti's perfect start as coach of Paris Saint-Germain is over after the capital club were held to a goalless draw by an impressive Nice.
Nenê and substitute Guillaume Hoarau came closest to scoring for Paris, but on another day they might have lost this game. Spurred on by a partisan home support at the Stade du Ray, Nice were excellent and only several crucial interventions from visiting goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu prevented them from claiming what would have been a famous win.
PSG are still top of the table, but their five-game winning run at the start of 2012 is now over, and they now lead Montpellier by just a single point before next week's top-of-the-table clash at the Parc des Princes. Nice, meanwhile, are still in the relegation zone and have not won any of their last five league games, but this draw, coupled with a spirited performance, should give them a real boost in their battle to beat the drop.
Just as they did under Antoine Kombouaré, Paris have developed a habit of grinding out results, but Nice provided their stiffest test in a long time at a venue where the capital side have often struggled in recent years. Eric Mouloungui was back in the home starting line-up after helping Gabon to the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations, and he was a constant menace to the PSG defence throughout. With Anthony Mounier also dangerous and Kévin Anin looking every bit the player that attracted admiring glances from Italy and England during his time at Sochaux, the visitors were made to suffer and Ancelotti was visibly less than impressed with his team’s performance.
Sirigu made an important save to deny Mounier after Mouloungui had made an incursion from the left wing, and the latter also forced a save from the Italian shot-stopper in a first period which was most notable for the referee Bartolomeu Varela’s decision to send PSG assistant coach Claude Makelele to the stands. The visitors hardly helped themselves by squandering what chances they did create, and Kévin Gameiro only managed to shoot wide after being set up by a Nenê back-heel.
Alex debut cut short
Ancelotti had given a debut in central defence to former Chelsea man Alex, but the Brazilian only lasted until half time before being hauled off and replaced by Christophe Jallet. With Milan Bisevac moving from right-back to centre-back, that was a clear sign that Ancelotti was concerned by the threat posed going forward by Les Aiglons.
René Marsiglia’s side had won just once in six league games and came into the weekend in the drop zone, but they didn’t play like a team threatened by the spectre of relegation, and were well worth their point. PSG did enjoy the better of the chances in the second half, but Gameiro saw a shot saved from a tight angle before he was replaced up front by Guillaume Hoarau.
Food for thought
The big striker added a new dimension to Paris’ attack, and he saw a header well saved down low to his left by David Ospina before shooting just over from the edge of the box. In between those chances, Sirigu had to be at his best once again to keep out a Fabrice Abriel effort, before Jallet and Nenê both came close from free-kicks at the other end.
Nenê is a world-class match-winner on his day, but he can also be highly frustrating, as proven by his inability to finish after finding himself clean through with just Ospina to beat late on. But, aside from his team’s failure to take their chances, Ancelotti might also be concerned by the extent to which his side was made to look ordinary by spirited and hard-working opponents. Food for thought, then, for the Italian a week before that summit meeting with in-form Montpellier.