Paris Saint-Germain failed to find the killer punch in a drab goalless draw at home to Montpellier Herault on Saturday, handing archrivals Olympique de Marseille the chance to end the year on top of Ligue 1.
L’OM stay top on goal-difference before taking on LOSC Lille Metropole at home yesterday, while third-placed Olympique Lyonnais — who could theoretically upset the apple cart if Marseille came unstuck — travel to Girondins de Bordeaux.
For the Parisian club, Saturday’s game was another case of failing to live up to the pressure, following defeats to Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League and En Avant de Guingamp in the league, before an unconvincing 3-1 victory at second-tier AC Ajaccio in the Coupe de la Ligue in midweek.
An error-strewn first half at the Parc des Princes saw the mid-table visitors knock PSG out of their normally fluid style and frustrated them throughout the first 45 minutes.
Montpellier could even claim the best chance of the first 45 minutes when Morgan Sanson had the ball in the net with an acrobatic volley from Antony Mounier’s cross from the left, but Mounier was harshly ruled offside and the goal did not count.
The Paris club had to wait until five minutes from halftime, before carving out a creditable chance of their own, but failed to take advantage as Edinson Cavani needed one touch too many on Marco Verratti’s through pass and the ball ran away from him, allowing Montpellier goalkeeper Jonathan Ligali to smother it at his feet.
The home side were looking anything like reigning champions even after upping the tempo at the start of the second half, as Montpellier managed to soak up everything PSG could throw at them.
However, PSG gave notice that it might not be long before they took the lead as they moved up a gear in the 63rd minute.
Lucas had a penalty appeal waved away after tangling with Abdelhamid El Kaoutari in the area and from the resulting corner taken by Thiago Motta, Thiago Silva rose unchallenged to head goalward, but Mounier scrambled it off the line.
However, it was not be, as the clock ran down with neither side looking likely to break the deadlock.
Montpellier had scored seven goals in their previous two matches, but seemed mostly content to play a containing game and manager Rolland Courbis looked the happier at the final whistle as counterpart Laurent Blanc reflected on what might have been.
“I am disappointed with the last two games, against Guingamp and Montpellier, as we should have got more than one point from two matches and that would have meant we had a satisfactory first half of the season,” Blanc said. “Our lack of rhythm since the start of the campaign was evident again tonight. All season, we have been guilty of a lack of fight in midfield. It’s true we didn’t have many chances, but then nor did they. We are missing that attacking edge.”
The two sides will meet again in their next competitive match, having been drawn together in the Coupe de France early next month.
Meanwhile, Guingamp continued their mini-revival with a hard-won point from a 1-1 draw at Toulouse to leapfrog their rivals into 12th place, but still only three points above the relegation places.
Thibault Giresse put Guingamp ahead in the eighth minute, before Tongo Hamed Doumbia equalized after 26 minutes and Wissam Ben Yedder missed a 56th-minute penalty, allowing the visitors to hold on for a share of the spoils.
Nantes came away from a short trip to Lorient with all three points after a 2-1 win, Stade de Reims climbed to ninth with a 3-1 win away at Stade Rennais and AS Monaco won 1-0 away at struggling Metz.
The bottom two sides, Stade Malherbe Caen Calvados and SC Bastia, shared the points in a 1-1 draw.
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