Paris Saint-Germain registered their first win of the Ligue 1 season by beating Valenciennes 2-1 on Sunday, as French record signing Javier Pastore made his long-awaited home debut.
The victory took PSG into the top half of the table, but they already trail early pace-setters Montpellier Herault by five points after Rene Girard’s side secured a third straight win by crushing Stade Rennais 4-0.
PSG toiled amid stifling 32oC heat at the Parc des Princes and had goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu to thank for denying Gaetan Bong after the Valenciennes defender ambled into the PSG box midway through the first half.
The hosts went in front in the 39th minute when Kevin Gameiro ran on to Jeremy Menez’s subtle pass, before lifting the ball over Nicolas Penneteau.
Their lead did not survive until the halftime interval, though, as Remi Gomis drew the visitors level with a header from Renaud Cohade’s inviting right-wing cross.
Pastore, a 42 million euro (US$60 million) acquisition from Palermo, came on as a substitute shortly before the hour and quickly had the fans on their feet with an elegant pirouette to elude two defenders near the right-hand corner flag.
Their tails up, PSG won a penalty when David Ducourtioux was penalized for handling Nene’s cross and Nene converted the spot-kick himself, slamming the ball into the bottom-right corner to restore the hosts’ lead.
Cohade let PSG off the hook by wastefully lifting the ball over the bar in the 76th minute, as television cameras caught sporting director Leonardo puffing out his cheeks in a gesture that adequately expressed PSG’s relief.
“It was a really important victory,” said PSG coach Antoine Kombouare, who had come under pressure after a 1-0 loss to Lorient and a 1-1 draw at Rennes. “People were expecting things from us and we absolutely had to win. A hard-earned victory lets you see the mental strength of a team.”
On Pastore, he added: “He needs time. He brings his ability to carry the ball, to make the right decisions and to take things forward.”
PSG’s archrivals Olympique de Marseille are still seeking a first win of the season after recording a third consecutive draw in a goalless stalemate with AS Saint-Etienne that left Didier Deschamps’ side in 12th place.
Loic Remy hit the post for Marseille in the first half and the hosts also had a penalty appeal rejected when Jean Pascal Mignot handled the ball, but Saint-Etienne came closest in the second half when Bakary Sako hit the bar.
A second yellow card for Mignot in the last five minutes meant the visitors finished with 10 men.
“Saint-Etienne had come to defend and they didn’t have many chances, but we struggled to make chances too,” Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda said. “With a bit more luck and belief, we could have created more chances.”
Saint-Etienne’s draw means that Montpellier are now the only team in the division with a 100 percent record after they made hay against a Rennes side that wilted badly at the Stade de la Mosson.
Substitute Souleymane Camara punished weariness in the visiting defense with a late brace, following a 31st-minute Younes Belhanda penalty and a strike by Geoffrey Dernis early in the second period.
Sunday’s other afternoon kick-off saw Sochaux-Montbeliard win 2-1 at AS Nancy-Lorraine despite the absence of striker Modibo Maiga, who is seeking to force through a move to Newcastle United.