For a team whose goal is winning its first UEFA Champions League, Paris Saint-Germain’s performance against Reims on Saturday, coming off a midweek draw against Benfica, was more than a little underwhelming.
Christophe Galtier’s side was incredibly frustrated, inoperant, short-circuited, and halted to a nil-nil tie by the 14th team in France’s Ligue 1 in a day to forget for the Parisians.
PSG entered the weekend sitting atop the table, and by the time the ball started to roll in the Stade de Reims’ Auguste-Delaune, the folks from the capital already knew they’d be facing Olympique Marseille, looking at their closest competitors from above.
OM, of course, lost their game against Ajaccio with the latter coming from behind and turning the initial 1-0 disadvantage into a 2-1 victory away from home at the Stade Velodrome.
That, along with Paris’ draw against Reims, is probably the best news to come PSG’s way on Saturday. At the end of the day, Paris Saint-Germain is still undefeated this season in all competitions, sitting in first in the top-flight division of French football, and was good enough to exit yesterday’s game three points clear of second-position OM.
Given what went down in Reims, that’s a massive victory for PSG.
PSG were coming off failing to defeat Benfica 1-1) when a win would have virtually secured their place in the knockout stages of the European competition as group leader. With one game every three days, and facing minnows from Reims — in relegation places entering this weekend’s matchday — it was always logical to see a rotated PSG side sandwiching their two most important Champions League games, especially with Le Classique right around the corner.
After the scare in the Parc des Princes a week ago — against OGC Nice — in which PSG was held to a 1-1 draw until Kylian Mbappe came off the bench to solve Paris’ woes, and ultimately gift his team 3 more points, the second-half substitutions didn’t work out so nicely for PSG this time.
As many as five players, normally considered reserves, entered the starting XI of PSG in replacement of oft-used starters: Fabian Ruiz, Juan Bernat, Nordi Mukiele, Carlos Soler and Pablo Sarabia. Not named, of course, were Lionel Messi (not in the squad) and Neymar (rested, on the bench).
Just 41 minutes were enough for Sergio Ramos to put PSG ahead. Ahead in the yellow- and red-card tally, that is, after entangling in a discussion with the referee that first saw him receive a yellow only for the ref, just a few seconds later and with the Spaniard locked into arguing the first decision, to show Ramos the red card and send him to the locker.
Marco Verratti was mad at it and made the referee know by halftime. Captain Marquinhos and Danilo Pereira would later drop the hammer on the refereeing PSG received in Reims, and in prior games, by the end of the game while talking to the press.
Perhaps most worrying of all for PSG was the fact they held Reims to a measly 36 percent of possession, dominating the ball but only generating 11 shots and three on goal. Even worse was the fact Reims finished the day with 24 and four, dwarfing PSG’s outcome.
Of course, Gianluigi Donnarumma would have been named Man of the Match had the award been given by Ligue 1.
And of course, the last-resort tactics used by Galtier last weekend didn’t work this time with Neymar entering the pitch by the 57th minute in exchange for a kinda-lost Carlos Soler who never found his place—nor his pace.
All Neymar could do was get on the referee’s notepad getting a yellow on the verge of the final whistle.
It might sound ludicrous coming from a report discussing a Paris Saint-Germain game, one that ended in a goalless draw, but PSG must have gone to sleep relieved they at least could retain the Ligue 1 lead and the unbeaten streak.
The toughest part of the schedule is yet to come. PSG better get ready and improve their outlook by bolstering their game plans quickly if they don’t want to trash their season before the World Cup break. It would mean the French glamour team could be waving goodbye to their chances at silverware by the midpoint of November.