LIGUE 1: PSG recover from Barca heartbreak to beat Troyes

AFP, PARIS

Mon, Apr 15, 2013 - Page 18

Paris Saint-Germain recovered from their UEFA Champions League heartbreak as they continued their march toward a first Ligue 1 crown in 19 years with a 1-0 win at basement side ES Troyes AC on Saturday.

Blaise Matuidi broke the deadlock at Stade de l’Aube on 65 minutes with the game’s only goal as PSG opened up a provisional 10-point gap over Olympique de Marseille, who were traveling to in-form LOSC Lille Metropole yesterday, at the top of Ligue 1 with just seven games remaining.

“We took a big step toward the title with a 10-point advantage. We must stay concentrated and now the goal is to wrap up the championship as soon as possible,” PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti said.

“The result is very good, especially because the performance was average. It’s always difficult after the Champions League,” he added.

The possibility of a European hangover indeed loomed large following last week’s 1-1 draw with Barcelona at the Camp Nou that saw the Parisian outfit bow out of the quarter-finals on away goals, especially with the absence of the suspended Zlatan Ibrahimovic. PSG had failed to record a league victory this term when their talisman was not playing.

Kevin Gameiro, making a rare start in place of Ibrahimovic, squandered an excellent chance to put the visitors ahead inside five minutes, but he was thwarted by Troyes goalkeeper Yohan Thuram after escaping the last defender.

The hosts almost grabbed an unlikely lead shortly after through Stephane Darbion as his angled attempt struck the frame of the PSG goal, before Salvatore Sirigu was forced into a pair of smart saves to repel both Fabien Camus and Benjamin Nivet.

Thuram then had to be alert to deny Ezequiel Lavezzi just after the restart, while Gameiro’s day was brought to an abrupt end on 64 minutes as he was hauled off, with Thiago Motta taking his place.

A visibly frustrated Gameiro made his displeasure known, muttering: “It’s always the same thing, always the same thing,” after blanking Ancelotti on his return to the dugout.

His uncharacteristic outburst could not have proved more ill-timed though, as Matuidi, who missed the second leg in Barcelona through suspension, put PSG ahead barely 60 seconds later.

Gregory van der Wiel’s hopeful cross eluded the home defense, allowing Matuidi to sneak in at the far post and slot beyond a helpless Thuram for his fourth goal of the campaign — and the second this season against his former club.

Javier Pastore then rifled in a low strike that Thuram expertly repelled with a strong right hand as the visitors looked to turn the screw.

The hosts refused to surrender, but they were unable to find a way past the excellent Sirigu as the Italian custodian tipped over a late long-range strike from Camus to record a remarkable 20th clean sheet of the season.

Elsewhere, Montpellier Herault were on the losing end of a 4-2 scoreline away to Girondins de Bordeaux, while Lorient routed SC Bastia 4-1, with Jeremie Aliadiere netting twice for the hosts.

Evian Thonon Gaillard bolstered their survival hopes with a 4-2 defeat of slumping Stade Rennais, as the Brittany outfit’s miserable run continued unabated with a fourth straight defeat that stretched their winless streak to eight matches.

AS Nancy-Lorraine remained in the bottom three after a 1-1 draw at AC Ajaccio, while Stade Brestois 29 sank further into the mire after losing 2-0 at home to Stade de Reims.