Wednesday, July 17, 2024
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PSG – Title Hopes Begin to Run Out on the Riviera

When Laurent Blanc left Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at the end of last season, the board went for a European specialist Unai Emery who had won three straight Europa League titles with Sevilla, to replace him.

He was the man PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi felt would bring his side the success in Europe they craved and continue their grip on French football.

Last season PSG finished a quite astounding 31 points ahead of their nearest rivals Lyon in the French league. In fact, they sealed the title back in March 2016 with a 9-0 win over Troyes. This season, however, has seen the Parisian’s having to fend off the challenge of two brilliant sides, Monaco and Nice.

Monaco won on Saturday to move three points clear of PSG, with both having played 34 games. PSG desperately needed to beat Nice to keep up the pressure, as a defeat would’ve allowed Monaco to widen the gap to six points, as they have a game in hand later in May.

Nice led the title race for thirteen weeks in the middle of the season but could not keep up and shifted their focus to securing the final Champions League spot reserved for the side finishing third in France.

They have done that emphatically, as they have already secured a place in next season’s premier European competition – a great achievement for them.

The game against Nice provided a chance for Emery to prove that he was PSG’s man for the big occasion. PSG, however, began very slowly and fell behind to a lovely goal from Mario Balotelli after 24 minutes. The Italian, back on track after a tough spell at Liverpool, received the ball on the edge of the area and curled a beautiful goal into the bottom corner.

PSG pressed and probed but couldn’t find a response before half-time despite being blessed with the attacking talent of Julian Draxler, Angel Di Maria, and Edinson Cavani.

The French giants appeared for the second half needing a big response but again looked passive and slow as Nice scored an excellent second goal in the 48th minute. Younes Belhanda began the move beating three PSG players in his own half, Nice surged forward, and the ball eventually reached right winger Ricardo, who bent a beautiful shot into the top corner. PSG were reeling behind and needed to hit back quickly to keep their title hopes alive.

It took a little longer than Emery would have wanted, but in the 64th minute, Thiago Silva flicked a corner onto the waiting Marquinhos, who headed in to give his side some hope. They tried to break Nice down but got no joy, and their predicament became much worse as the game began to draw to a close.

First, Thiago Motta was shown a red card; then, Nice added a third goal with a fantastic counterattacking move, which was finished off by Anastasios Donis. And for the pièce de résistance, Di Maria was also sent off, capping a miserable night for PSG as they fell to a 3-1 defeat.

This result leaves PSG’s title hopes in tatters, and they might even have to fight for second place with Nice only three points behind them. After a desperately disappointing season, questions will be asked about Emery, and it remains unclear if they will be able to answer them.

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