PSG vs. Athletic Bilbao ⋆ An Old International

PSG vs. Athletic Bilbao

It was the game that was meant to decide the future of PSG coach Antoine Kombouaré. And it was not going to be a successful night for Paris despite beating Athletico 4-2. They went out with a bang on goal difference.

The mach started with a shock as Bilbao took the lead after only three minutes, Aurtenetxe opened what was to become a six goal fest. What followed was a hectic period that only settled into a flowing game after around 20 minutes. Before that there were plenty of fouls on both sides while SG tried to level the scoring. Their nerves were palpable and in particular in the first period of the game, the passes simply did not come together and more often than not the dribbles of Pastore, Nene and Bahebeck became entangled in the solid defence of the Basques. This headless attacking nearly allowed Bilbao to score but they were denied by the ever attentive Lugano in central defence.

The goal came on the other side of the park and it was not undeserved that PSG levelled as they had more of the ball throughout the first half. A free kick from the left came to Bahebeck who nodded it down to Pastore who had no problem to score from the edge of the six yard box. This goal helped to calm the nerves of PSG and the game and it became a one-sided affair now however, Bilbao were a constant threat on the counter as they almost scored from the kick-off after conceding. The remainder of the first half saw chances coming for Paris every two minutes (Gameiro denied twice), with the odd counter attack to relieve the pressure from the Bilbao defence, who played a consistently good game. They were wasteful with their chances! It was either a turn or dribble too many or the passing just did not click and were thus intercepted by Bilbao.

The pressure became almost unbearable towards the end of the first half. Bahebeck had free header from close range which went over the bar. A cross from Gameiro, Bahebeck raced towards the near post but could not control the ball enough to turn into the net. Only a minute later, a corner from the right found Paris workhorse Mathieu Bodmer who scored with a looped header over the keeper into the far corner of the net to give PSG a 2-1 lead to go into the break with.

At this stage Paris the lead was deserved as the visitors only appeared to go forward on the break and otherwise were sitting back and let PSG come at them, which the latter duly did. With this 2-1 lead after 45 minutes, PSG would have been through to the knock-out stages of this competition as Slovak held Salzburg to a 2-2 draw at half-time.

The second half saw a very different game as it were Bilbao who had more of the game and within 10 minutes after the re-start were rewarded for their pressing when David Lopez scored from 25m with a hammer of a shot. No chance for Douchez in the Paris goal and no reaction, no one attacking Lopez sufficiently, instrad giving him space and time to compose himself and shoot. Paris now had to react and they did so, furiously as they wanted another goal. Albeit it would not come immediately.

The game now was an entertaining one as the action flowed from one end to the other and back with chances on both sides, PSG having more chances and wasting all of them. Pastore, Bodmer, Nene, Gameiro all of them had their chances but they could not fid the back of the net or had their dribblings and turns intercepted and interrupted.

The last ten minutes were nothing for weak nerves and hearts! At 83 mnutes PSG were awarded a penalty which normally is a thing for Nene to excel at. Not this time. He shot over the bar and the crowd could hear his heart break despite their gasps of disappointment. He was in need of consolation by his team mates after this. Hope was restored though only two minutes later when a scramble near the Bilbao goal led to an own goal by Inigo Perez after which Parc de Princes errupted with joy. It did not end here. Just before the final whistle there was another penalty for Paris. This time it was Hoarau, after two and a half months out with injury, who stepped up and cooly converted, sending the keeper the other way. It was a glorious result for PSG and it could have been 5 had Pastore not been selfish but seen the better placed Erdinc in injury time.

All this was in vain. Salzburg won 3-2 which meant they were through with 10 points and PSG, also on 10 points went out on goal difference. They did not fail last night, they have failed away at Slovak were they only got a goalless draw and at Salzburg where they lost 2-0 a fortnight ago. This Paris team is not a bad one, it is just that time is an important factor when a squad is newly assembled, particularly with high profile purchases. Failure in Europe will certainly trigger some decisions but will also give the coach and his team time and space to work calmly on merging the team together and focus on winning the French league title, which they have not done in over 15 years.

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