After a packed day of exploring the great city of Paris, I was set to make my way to Le Parc des Princes. The #9 subway takes you to within one block of the stadium. As you make your way past a residential area, the stadium comes into sight almost out of nowhere. Yes, the stadium isn’t exactly near the center of the city but it is placed on top of a highway right next to a residential area. I arrived about an hour and a half before kickoff and the place was buzzing for the match.
After picking up my media credential, I headed up to the press area and began preparing for the match. I started talking to the usher in the press box and he seems to think Ibrahimovic is off to the MLS sooner rather than later and that PSG will strongly pursue Cristiano Ronaldo. After taking my seat, I noticed just how big the stadium truly is. It started filling up and was packed by kickoff. PSG fans are quite passionate and the atmosphere was absolutely fantastic. Before kickoff, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was acknowledged for becoming Paris-Saint Germain’s all-time leading goal scorer.
Coming off a 0-0 draw against Real Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday, PSG started with a strong 4-3-3 lineup. Javier Pastore was ruled out due to illness. You could tell right from the start that Thiago Motta and Marco Verratti pull the strings in the midfield for this PSG team. They’re both so comfortable and smart on the ball, it’s a pleasure to watch. Thiago Motta and Ibrahimovic both had very good chances to give PSG an early lead but neither could find the back of the net. It still didn’t take PSG long to find the opener. In the 23rd minute, Verratti played a through ball to Layvin Kurzawa who snuck behind the defense and slotted the ball under the goalkeeper to give PSG a 1-0 lead. Even though PSG were in control of the match, St.Etienne did a fine job to string some passes together but could never find that final pass that would create a clear-cut opportunity. St.Etienne looked better going forward as the 1st half went on and Valentin Eysseric had two long distance shots which both went narrowly wide. PSG looked to have found their second goal in the 41st minute when Zlatan was on a breakaway and played a square ball to Edinson Cavani who seemed to have a tap-in but Stéphane Ruffier made a great diving save. PSG had a flurry of chances before the break as Angel Di Maria sent a half volley just over the bar and Zlatan had a header that sailed over the bar.
Laurent Blanc had his side come out in the second half looking for that insurance goal as Di Maria put a 1v1 opportunity wide just seconds after the restart. A Thiago Sliva clearance sprung Ibrahimovic onto a breakaway who this time found Cavani at the far post to give PSG the 2-0 lead. Cavani had a golden chance to put the game to bed just seconds later but slipped as he went to shoot from about 8 yards out. Paul Pogba’s brother, Florentin, entered the match for St.Etienne in the 52nd minute. After dominating possession, PSG eventually sealed the victory. Di Maria played a perfect through ball to Cavani who slid it across for Zlatan to tap it home. A great team goal to give PSG a deserved 3-0 lead in the 67th minute. Laurent Blanc made a double substitution in the 70th minute taking out Ibrahimovic and Adrien Rabiot for Lucas Moura and Blaise Matuidi. St.Etienne did get a consolation goal in the 74th minute but from the least likely of candidates. Marquinhos’ clearance bounced off of Verratti’s foot as the Italian scored a strange own goal. Paris-Saint Germain put the icing on the cake in the 87th minute as Lucas Moura did a great job to head home Verratti’s inch perfect cross. With the win, PSG take a 7-point lead in Ligue 1 and St.Etienne remain in 5th place.
Seeing superstars in person is something special. It’s awesome to see what kind of vibe each player gives off. You can tell Zlatan really is the Most Interesting Man In The World. He’s got amazing charisma and the sport is lucky to have a character like him. Verratti was very calm & elegant and he speaks pretty good French. I’m still upset he left Italy. Thiago Silva is truly a class act. He talked to journalists the most out of everyone and was the last player to leave. He also seemed genuinely interested in answering questions. Check below for more comments on players.
Kevin Trapp – He didn’t really impress me. Dropped a few balls and seems poor with his feet sometimes. Obviously it was only one match but I don’t see why PSG needed to sign him when they have Salvatore Sirigu. I imagine the Italian will certainly want to leave if he has indeed become the second choice keeper.
Gregory Van Der Wiel – Talented going forward but seemed vulnerable defensively a few times. Has a strange tattoo that wraps around his neck.
Marquinhos – It’s quite remarkable that the Brazilian is only 21 years old. He’s a great talent who already reads the game well. Will become more polished with experience. He has the perfect mentor in Thiago Silva.
Thiago Silva – World class center back. He’s great both on the ball and defensively. Definitely should be the captain of this team. Like I said above he’s also a top class guy. He was happy to talk to a journalist in Portuguese.
Post game comments: "We enjoyed this evening a lot more than Wednesday night against Real Madrid. We played well on Wednesday night too, but tonight we scored. Today, everyone knew we had to be more aggressive to score. So tonight we scored four... no, we scored five, because Marco [Verratti] scored Saint-Etienne's goal! We'll have to keep a close eye on Marco from now on (laughs). We were very solid in defense. In the second half we played very well and controlled the game, to get this result tonight."
Layvin Kurzawa – Quality left back. He was lively throughout the match, mainly in the first half. Took his goal well. Has solid pace and can whip in a cross. He could start at left back for France next summer at Euro 2016.
Post game comments: "I'm very happy to have scored, especially since it opened the scoring this evening. We played well against a very good side. We enjoyed the majority of the possession and took our chances. We wanted to score as many goals as possible and we can still improve in front of goal. We have the players to win matches so we have to get as close as possible to perfection. Personally, I'm having a ball on this team."
Thiago Motta – Holds in front of the back four most of the time. He’s great on the ball and pulls the strings. Will sometimes go unnoticed with all the superstars around but he’s an important piece to the puzzle for PSG.
Marco Verratti – Great player. He was buzzing about everywhere on the pitch. Has great skill and works defensively. I saw him pick out some passes like Pirlo. Nice to see him not get a yellow card. He led PSG with 153 touches and had 2 assists.
Adrien Rabiot – He’s only 21 and is undoubtedly talented but I don’t think he played too well. Seemed a bit lazy at times. Will be interesting to see how he develops because I do think he can be very good player.
Edinson Cavani – Has now scored 5 goals in 6 appearances against St.Etienne. Good defensive work rate. Bounced back from his poor performance against Real Madrid with a goal and an assist. He talked to the TV reporters but none of the journalists.
Angel Di Maria – One of the best players on the pitch. Looked dangerous almost every time he got the ball. He’s now settled into the PSG squad and I think he’ll be more of the player he was at Real Madrid.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic – What else can really be said about Zlatan. Zlatan is Zlatan. Absolute legend, plain and simple. Said he was feeling sick but decided to play anyway. #ZlatanDoesWhatZlatanWants
Ezequiel Lavezzi – Was brought on in the 85th but didn’t seem happy at all. He walked past all the reporters, disinterested with his head down. I definitely think he’s leaving PSG, either in January or in the summer as a free agent. A return to Serie A seems on the cards as Inter, Juventus and Milan are interested in the Argentine.