Sun, Mar 30, 2014 - Page 20 News List

PSG edge Nice ahead of Chelsea showdown

AFP, PARIS

Paris Saint-Germain’s Edinson Cavani, left, watches as an own-goal passes OGC Nice goalkeeper David Ospina, front right, in their Ligue 1 match in Nice, France, on Friday.

Photo: Reuters

Paris Saint-Germain warmed up for their UEFA Champions League showdown with Chelsea by recording a narrow 1-0 win at OGC Nice on Friday that took them another step closer to the Ligue 1 title.

For the second week in a row, the reigning French champions were some way short of their flowing best, but a solitary second-half goal, credited as an own-goal by Nice fullback Timothee Kolodziejczak, saw them to victory by the same score as at Lorient seven days earlier.

PSG’s club record-breaking sequence of consecutive wins now stretches to nine and they have also gone five straight matches without conceding a goal in Ligue 1 as they opened up a provisional 13-point lead at the top of the table over AS Monaco, who were due to visit Evian Thonon Gaillard yesterday.

“To be honest, this match will not go down in the annals of PSG’s history, but the essential was done,” PSG coach Laurent Blanc told beIN Sports. “We could have been out of sight in the first 10 minutes, but in the end we got the job done. At the moment, we are not at our best going forward. Our domination was a little sterile last week at Lorient and again tonight. We need to be much more clinical against Chelsea.”

The capital side have struggled frequently in Nice in recent years and were beaten 2-1 at the old Stade du Ray last season, but their mid-table hosts lacked the cutting edge to repeat the feat at their impressive new Stade Allianz Riviera.

With one eye on Chelsea, Blanc left Alex, Maxwell, Blaise Matuidi and Marco Verratti on the bench at kickoff, but captain Thiago Silva started with a mask protecting the cheekbone he fractured against Lorient.

Nice’s entire starting lineup had scored nine goals fewer between them than Zlatan Ibrahimovic, indicating the size of the task awaiting Claude Puel’s men, and their evening got off to a bad start when the eagle that is their symbol shied out of its pre-match flight around the stadium, opting to hide beneath the roof instead.

They were lucky not to fall behind in the opening 15 minutes when Ezequiel Lavezzi twice missed the target for the visitors when well-placed and Yohan Cabaye’s sweetly-struck long-range effort swerved just wide of the top-right corner.

Nice did have the ball in the net at the other end, but top scorer Dario Cvitanich’s header was correctly ruled out for offside, leaving the Argentine still with just one league goal to his name since early November last year.

The game raged from end to end in the opening period, but PSG goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu was never seriously tested, while his opposite number David Ospina made two excellent saves from Edinson Cavani and Ibrahimovic, before also denying Silva just before the halftime whistle.

Nice were looking to build on a run of three games without defeat, but they fell behind nine minutes into the second half.

Javier Pastore’s flighted ball into the penalty area was headed on by Ibrahimovic toward Cavani, but it was Kolodziejczak who turned it into his own net as he tried to prevent Cavani from scoring what would have been his 15th of the campaign.

PSG might have scored again when Lucas Digne fired the ball toward goal with Ospina on the ground, but Mathieu Bodmer got back to clear from just in front of the line.

The leaders held on to take the three points, with Nice only threatening to equalize from two Eric Bautheac free-kicks, one that flew over and another that was punched away by Sirigu.

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