COS contributor Jeevio gives you the low-down on an encounter you probably never watched on TV or in person.
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So the first question has to be why are these East London minnows up against one of the giants of France on a Sunday November evening? Some quick research showed me to be somewhat off the mark as I discovered Lorient are a Ligue Un outfit based in the North West of France and therefore had every right to be playing the Parisian giants, in November or any other month for that matter.
Barely had I time to survey the team sheets when an old personal favourite of mine, former Roma player and France international Ludovic Giuly let fly with a daisy cutter that the Lorient goalkeeper Fabian Audard did well to palm away. So the team sheets, following my Sporting Gijon embarrassment I must admit to a slight concern that I, again, wouldn’t be able to recognise the less famous teams 1st eleven and therefore plunge my reputation as a budding match reporter into further disarray than it was already. Thankfully Lorient spared me these blushes by fielding Arnold Mvuemba of recent Portsmouth fame, fame possibly being a slightly misleading word.
The most interesting piece of information I acquired in the first few minutes was that Lorient’s pitch was actually an artificial one, something that did seem to surprise me. Of course it’s understandable the need for all weather pitches in Moscow or Oslo but North West France? If anyone has any clue as to why this is the case and why its permitted please feel free to share with the rest of the class.
Returning to the action and Guillaume Hoarau almost gave PSG the lead 9 minutes in but saw his firm header drop wide of the Audard’s right hand post. If I’d had to guess beforehand based on what I know about the two clubs, (a little about PSG, none about Lorient) I’d suggest the game would play out in a manner of strong Parisian pressure and a back to the wall effort from the minnows and that is exactly how it started.
Young defensive midfielder Clement Chantome should have put PSG ahead on the quarter hour mark but he spooned wildly over after the Audard had spilled a routine left wing cross. By thio stage PSG were maurading forward at will with Chantome, Giuly and the brazillian Nene all looking impressive on the ball. Nene in particular showing an extremely assured first touch and impeccable technique. The home crowd were not to be unperturbed by the Parisian pressure and kept up an admirable din throughout the early stages, trumpets and bagpipes performing renditions of ‘When the Saints go marching in‘, not even subsiding even as nene floated a header just wide on 2o minutes. One thing very noticeable was how much quicker this game in France seemed to the one I covered a couple of weeks ago in Spain. Without doubt a greater sense of urgency in this league, as opposed to the more patient build up play La Liga is known for.
The first real moment of quality arrived mid-way through the first half lorient countered. Kevin Gameiro was played through by Morgan Amalfitanu and proceeded to produce an exquisite ‘Totti-esque’ chip that floated over the advancing Gregory Coupet , Gameiro was already wheeling away to celebrate whilst former France international Coupet seemed to abruptly turn around expecting to pick the ball out of the net. However both were wrong as the ball crashed against the crossbar and out, the resultant corner came to nothing. It appeared this game would not be as clear cut as originally thought.
PSG were clearly rocked by this newly found danger of the Lorient counter attack and eased up on the streaming forward that was so apparent in their game during the opening 20 minutes. In fact they had more to worry about at the back as captain Slyvain Armand produced an excellent block as the Togolese midfielder Alaixys Ramao shaped to shoot.
Lorient weren’t rueing this missed opportunity for long as the opening goal came from the resultant corner. PSG allowed the low effort to bounce across the six yard box straight to a grateful Lynel Kitambala who tapped the ball into the vacant far corner of the net. PSG’s reputation as a solid defensive side not too apparent on this evidence.
With Lorient very much in the ascendancy the decibel level raised a few more notches, however on 35 minutes Nene’s dangerous ball across the six yard box demanded a simple tap in by Turkish strike Mevlet Urdinc from point blank range, though the striker displayed a lack of anticipation and the ball drifted harmlessly wide off his thigh. What Nene’s wide play and crosses were highlighting was veteran lorient goalkeeper Fabian Audard’s susceptibility to any balls drilled or floated high or low across the six yard box. A weakness fierce looking PSG coach Antoine Kombouare was no doubt making a note of. The half progressed with the cumbersome looking Urdinc glancing another header harmlessy wide with no lorient defender in close attention. PSG had seemingly altered their tactics to set pieces as their most potent form of attack, this unsurprisingly meant players of the ilk of giuly were being bypassed regularly. However the diminutive Frenchman forced his way back in the game by collecting the ball wide right, before showing some sharp footwork to make room for a snapshot that was deflected wide. No doubt PSG have many a player very comfortable on the ball, however at times some over-elaboration combined with some expert Lorient defending meant the Parisian’s attacks were starting to be snuffed out with relative ease.
With another opportunity Giuly opted to release the ball early producing an exquisite cross that Hoarau attacked with venom and relish, Audard producing a superb reflex save to palm the ball over. That was the last action of the first half, on the balance of play PSG had more chances however Lorient’s efforts to drag themselves back into the game and ultimately take the lead was just reward for their meticulous manager Christian Gourcuff, father of France’s international enigma Youann.
Half time – Lorient 1 Paris St-Germain 0
A very strange start to the second half followed as Lorient player Arnold La Laun was involved in an interview talking about his thigh problem as seemingly the referee, the other 21 players on the pitch and the entire crowd waited for him to wrap it up so that they could start the second half. Bizarre practice but one that seems pretty popular in a lot of sports.
The bagpipes were in full voice as the second half eventually got under way.
The first chance of the period fell to Lorient as Gameiro showed himself to be the games most dangerous player as he weaved one way and the other inside the box before stabbing the ball wide with Coupet untroubled.
Shortly after Arnald La Laun was replaced by Remel to be replaced by Jeremy Morel presumably to take his position in one of the pundit’s chair upstairs. In contrast to the first half it was Lorient who started the more aggressively. Gameiro was again involved smashing a deflected shot onto the outside of the post as the Star Wars theme played raucously in the background by the impressive bagpipe group. Mvuemba was also beginning to impress with his efforts in a box to box midfielder role. There might be a very small chance that he struggled in his spell in England because he was being managed by a certain Tony Adams, I think most player’s games would suffer when faced with that burden.
A PSG break from the left shortly after saw the ball played into the Lorient box, Urdinc produced a clever dummy, Mathieu Bodmer came charging in and drilled a rasping shot from just outside the area that Audard plucked out of the air with a very picturesque save. PSG were ever so slowly working their way back into this game.
The PSG manager shuffled his pack on the hour as veteran Giuly, who had faded after a bright start, was replaced by Kinchasa born forward Peguy Luyindula.
From a free kick Bodmer got his head to the inswinger and Audard proved that his advancing years had not affected his reflexes as he produced a stunning tip over the bar, the goalkeeper growing in confidence as he claimed the resultant corner with ease.
The game by now had transformed into a rather thrilling end to end effort that was ebhing and flowing nicely, maybe Mancini should have a look at a few French ligue games for inspiration. He should also have a look at the excellent Gameiro who produced a firm block from Coupet, Mvuemba then embarked on a powerful run beating two defenders until seemingly clean through, however he appeared to suffer a nose bleed as the closer he got to Coupet the slower he became until he was forced to turn inside and the chance was gone.
The goalscorer Kitambala received a standing ovation as he left the pitch on 68 minutes to be replaced by Arsenal loanee Francis Coquelin. The John Carew-like PSG forward Hoarau was replaced at the same time by Sebastian Sessegnon. Not the best game for the imposing forward but his physical presence and good first touch impressed me, a player I think would do rather well in the premiership given his style and attributes. There was then a lengthy stoppage as PSG’s Brazilian full back Ceara received treatment for a bloody nose following a rather nasty looking elbow by Lorient’s Coquelin. A challenge that could have warranted a card of either colour. PSG’s manager certainly seemed to think so as Ceara was replaced. Kombuoare animatedly telling the referee Coquelin had broken Ceara’s nose, going on to call the challenge ridiculous. Tempers starting to boil over in a game that until then could hardly have been described as dirty.
Bruno Ecuele Manga (a summer replacement for Arsenal’s new signing Laurent Koscielny) was having a superb match as he marshalled the back line and put his head on every PSG ball into the box which to be fair, by the 80th minute was coming in very infrequently. He was a little less sure with his left foot as the Gabonese international tobleroned a ball over the top into the relieved arms of Audard.
PSG came to life in the final ten minutes as substitute Morel needlessly clattered Urdinc in the box, a blatant penalty subsequently ignored by the referee. Barely a breath had been drawn when, down the other end, Sigamary Diarra’s placed effort from the corner of the area was brilliantly tipped wide by Coupet. More excitement in north west France being produced than half a dozen Mancini managed Man City performances..
PSG had clearly decided to go for it and the game became even more stretched if that was possible with the next goal just as likely to go to either side.
Siaka Tieme was then released down the left and chipped the ball over the Lorient defence who for once were caught square. The pint sized midfielder Sessegnon stretched every neck muscle to make contact, unfortunately his extra effort affected both his power and placement as the ball meekly bounced wide. PSG had definitely upped the ante. It almost didn’t matter though as Gameiro was again released and following a superb first touch dropped a lob a foot wide of the post. Coquelin then slalomed his way into the box and placed a ball across the face of the goal for a simple Gameiro tap in, unfortunately for the playmaker, the ball hit his standing foot and rolled wide, a huge let off for PSG. One they would take full advantage in injury time as a set piece was floated deep into the Lorient box, chantome won his header nodding it down straight to Nene on the left hand side of the box, the Brazilian producing a calm left foot shot into the far corner of Audard‘s goal for a scarcely deserved point. Bizarrely following the goal Hoarau seemed to collapse on the PSG bench, medical attention was on hand, a worrying sight especially considering the spate of heart related issues amongst footballers in the last few years. The last few minutes saw Lorient trying to restore their advantage with Gameiro again wasteful. The final whistle eventually went as another Lorient broke down. A superb game of football with an excellent atmosphere to boot. Both teams attacked continously, with both using Plan A and B when required, Capello take note. The action was end to end with both keepers producing excellent stops when required, a superb advert for French football.
Players I would buy- Quite a few this week, an abundance of raw talent in Lorient’s line up. Gameiro is an excellent prospect. Quick, skilful, an eye for goal as well as for the spectacular. One that would excite most crowds, however for some reason he reminded me a little too much of Allesandro Diamanti in his West Ham days, at times looking a world beater but seeming to miss every chance he had, either unluckily or woefully. Imposing centre back Manga was the most effective player on the pitch mopping up almost everything PSG attempted with ease. I would also, if I were an English manager, give Arnold Mvuemba another chance in the Premiership. A tireless midfield engine who both screens the back four and provides support in attack. A little more confidence in his own shooting abilities could have seen him score a brilliant goal.
Next week shall see a different European league and their pool of unknown but undoubtedly talented players analysed, again any suggestions for games are welcome.