Game in a sentence

PSG overtake Porto for Group A honours thanks to the latest in horrific goalkeeping blunders.

Observations

  • Carlo Ancelotti’s job was on the line. The Parisian big boys had lost three of their last five games, the latest failure coming away against mid table Nice this past weekend. With Pep Guardiola reportedly hanging in Doha with PSG’s money men, speculation regarding Ancelotti’s future had increased. The two time champions league winner had come under fire for prioritizing Europe over the league — even though PSG last won the latter in 1994. Winning Group A would quiet the Parisian back pages for a couple days.
  • Ancelotti’s starting eleven indicated PSG would be going for the result at full cost, relegating Marco Verratti to the bench in favour of an attack minded lineup. Vitor Pereira’s side didn’t come to Paris in search of a draw, stating “this club lives off victories” before the match. The Dragões had failed to win just twice in their last 12 fixtures, including a loss to Braga in the Portuguese cup on Friday.
  • The first half didn’t disappoint. PSG’s exploits in the opening ten minutes of the game left Porto’s defenders gasping for air. Probing runs from Lavezzi, Menez and Pastore, created by excellent delieveries from Maxwell and Ibrahimiovic, led to a decided edge in corners for the Parisians. Porto’s inability to deal with set pieces would eventually hurt them.
  • Menez in particular was lively, drawing a yellow card on Nicolás Otamendi in the 29th minute after beating him on the outside. On the ensuing free kick Thiago Silva’s powerful header opened PSG’s account. Maxwell’s delivery was superb.
  • Their ability to score was never in question, but PSG’s defensive capabilities would be called into doubt just four minutes later.  After brushing aside Pastore’s ‘attempt’ — drive by flailing a more accuarate description — at dispossession, Danilo found Jackson Martinez in the box. The Colombian striker made no mistake (he hasn’t made one in some time), leveling the game at ones. Alex’s marking left a lot to be desired.
  • In all the first half was a treat to watch. Wide open play coupled with differing styles on the counter were on display throughout. While PSG’s quality on the flanks afforded them chances on Helton’s goal, their lack of presence in the middle of the pitch was glaring. Fernando, Lucho and Moutinho were having their way. Blaise Matuidi resembled a man who had played too much football.
  • The second half began much like the first, with PSG hurtling down the left flank. Pastore and Menez were active once again, the latter drawing a save from Helton in the 50th minute.
  • In the end this one would be decided by the keepers. Lavezzi’s game winner in the 61st minute will go down as the latest in a series of howlers that have plagued football. Helton’s attempt at saving a relatively weak shot was cringe worthy theatre. On the other end Sirigu foiled an excellent chance from Martinez in the 70th minute — the chance a product of PSG’s wasteland in the middle of the pitch and a great pass from Moutinho.
  • Finally, in the 77th minute Carlo inserted Marco Verratti for Lavezzi. Almost immediately a sense of order was restored to the PSG midfield.
  • Though they couldn’t find an equalizer, Porto should be buoyed by their performance. Otamendi’s free header in extra time was their chance to go top of the group, but wasn’t to be.
  • The knives destined for Ancelotti will be resheathed for now as PSG’s quest for European silverware remains on track. Porto is a team none of the group winners relish facing in the final 16. Arsenal on the other hand…
Three Stars
1. Jeremy Menez
2. Thiago Silva
3. Nicolas Otamendi