It may look suspiciously like a cheap plastic vase that came free with a bunch of flowers, but Paris Saint-Germain have their first trophy of the season safely in the cabinet after triumphing in last night’s Coupe de la Ligue final.
Edinson Cavani’s double at the Stade de France gave PSG a 2-1 win over Lyon, meaning they lifted the Coupe de la Ligue for a record fourth time.
The result must have come as blessed relief to boss Laurent Blanc, who has endured an awkward ten days following the Champions League defeat to Chelsea and last Sunday’s Ligue 1 loss at the hands of OL.
“Before the game, I got the impression that Lyon were having an extraordinary season, and that Paris were having an ordinary one, or even a mediocre one,” said a prickly-sounding Blanc afterwards . “What can I say to that? Have you seen the number of points of the two teams? “It was necessary to win this title to back up our very good season. We now have to go and pick up the title, a competition which is really worth something as teams want to beat you all season long.
“Afterwards, we’ll take stock of the season. Of course, we can always do better. To have an exceptional season, we need to shine on the European stage, because that is an objective that everyone is obsessed with.”
Blanc has good reason to feel a little narked; after all, he has done little wrong this season and if, as looks highly likely, PSG secure a second successive Ligue 1 title at some point in the next couple of weeks, he’ll have surpassed the achievements of his predecessor, Carlo Ancelotti.
The problem for LB is that last night’s win highlighted the deficiencies in his team, ones which he’ll have to deal with if, as looks likely, he gets a second year at the Parc des Princes. As in the Chelsea second leg, they didn’t seem to really believe in their ability to see out the match, especially after Alexandre Lacazette pulled a goal back for Lyon in the second half.
OL gave it a good go, attacking with pace and power, but without injured playmakers Clement Grenier and Yoann Gourcuff, their forays forward lacked any kind of finesse, and they rarely forced Nicolas Douchez into action. As such, PSG should have been able to get on the ball see out the closing stages in comfortable fashion, but instead they got sucked deeper and deeper, and were hanging on a bit until the introduction of good ol’ Jezza Menezza in the last five minutes gave them a much-needed out-ball. It’s possible that this nervousness is the result of the recent, er, results, but it’s something that Blanc will need to eradicate from his squad ahead of our next Champions League campaign, as better teams than Lyon will punish us.
It would have also been interesting to see how the match would have gone if PSG hadn’t opened the scoring after three minutes. Maxwell got on the end of a nice back-heel from Ezequiel Lavezzi, skipping into the area and lifting the ball over the advancing goalkeeper Anthony Lopes, leaving Cavani with a simple finish.
El Matador’s mojo has been conspicuous by it’s absence in recent weeks, but he seemed to have rediscovered it last night, just failing to control a long ball from Marco Verratti which would have put him in the clear, then firing in an excellent volley from 20 yards which brought a diving save from Lopes.
Aside from a few moments of poor communication between Thiago Silva and Nicky Shower, who seemed to be on completely different wave-lengths throughout the match, PSG were well in control of the game in the first period, and it was no surprise when they doubled their advantage just before half-time. However, the goal itself came from a typically superb piece of French refereeing from Stephane Lannoy, who somehow adjudged that Lopes has fouled Lucas Moura in the box as the Brazilian winger latched on to a long ball forward from Silva. The offence was barely even an offence, and occurred a good foot or so outside the box, but Cavani wasn’t about to look a gift idiot in the mouth, and smashed the spot kick to the right of Lopes. 2-0.
Cavani could have completed his hat-trick shortly afterwards after great work from Lucas left him with a free shot at goal, but he ballooned his effort way over the bar.
At this stage Lyon’s chances of victory looked about as flimsy as the costumes worn by the pre-match dancing girls, but they found a way back into the final thanks to Lacazette, who picked up the ball near half-way and advanced towards the PSG goal before dispatching a low effort past Douchez.
However, OL were unable to build on this goal, despite enjoying plenty of possession in the last quarter. In fact, it was PSG who looked more likely to add a third as the clock ticked down, with Alex heading wide from a set piece and substitutes Javier Pastore and Menez seeing a succession of crosses and shots blocked.
But in the end Cavani’s goals were enough to see Blanc’s men to victory, and Silva was able to lift the Trophy in front of a VIP box containing a very happy looking PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, and a very grumpy-looking Lyon chief Jean-Michel Aulas, who reserved a few choice words from Lannoy as he came up to collect his medal.
Next up for PSG is a midweek visit from Evian, a match which could see them confirmed as Ligue 1 Champions, depending on the outcome of this afternoon’s clash between Monaco and Nice.