Paris Saint-Germain were the dominant side against fellow nouveaux-riches club AS Monaco at the Parc Des Princes on Sunday night, but only managed a 1-1 draw with their title rivals. Zlatan Ibrahimović poked the home side into an early lead, but £50 million Colombia forward Radamel Falcao cancelled out his opener soon after with a scrappy effort. Monaco went into the match having only lost one of their previous 26 games, and PSG were unbeaten in 22, so both teams managed to continue their impressive unbeaten records.
The PSG full-backs were exploiting space behind the Monaco back-line from the opening minutes, so it came as no surprise when Ibrahimović volleyed in the impressive Maxwell’s tantalising cross just five minutes in. Thiago Silva played a long ball down the left wing which the Brazilian reached in acres of space, before putting a powerful ball into the box which was met by the mercurial Swede.
Monaco were penned in in the opening stages, with influential midfielder João Moutinho barely seeing the ball in the opening stages. When Monaco did come forward it was on the counter attack, with Maxwell and Gregory Van Der Wiel’s forays into the attacking third of the pitch leaving space behind for Lucas Acampos and Yannick Carrasco to exploit. Carrasco had an effort from the edge of the penalty area blocked by Salvatore Sirigu, but most of Monaco’s chances came from corners and frequent free-kicks in an increasingly heated atmosphere.
Zlatan Ibrahimović and Edinson Cavani were showing signs of gelling with an Ibra back-heel putting Cavani through, but the Uruguayan dragged his shot across the face of goal. He was made to rue that miss after 20 minutes when Monaco’s marquee summer signings, Moutinho and Falcao, combined to haul Monaco level. Moutinho whipped a delicious ball from the left wing in between the goalkeeper and the defense, and among three players on the ground, Falcao somehow managed to touch the ball into Sirigu’s bottom corner.
Forceful, almost Yaya Toure-esque running from Blaise Matuidi and excellent passing and dribbling from Man of the Match Marco Verratti, backed up by the solid and dependable Thiago Motta, left PSG’s midfield in complete control of the ball, and it was Les Parisiens who created the next opportunity. Ezequiel Lavezzi was sent spinning to the floor – adding several rolls of his own for effect – and from the resulting free kick, Ibrahimović headed just over from the center of the box. Ex-Roma man Marquinhos was finally booked for his fifth foul of the match some minutes later, with Falcao bending his free kick around the wall, but also around the post.
The Parc Des Princes must have been one of the wealthiest places on earth at that moment with both billionaire owners in attendance, but Nasser Al-Khelaifi was left frustrated when Ibrahimović found himself through on goal, only to take an eternity to make a decision. When he eventually cut back, two defenders were in his way and his curling effort (or was it a cross?) bent around the top corner with Lavezzi unable to turn it in.
Ibra was finding himself in good positions too often for Monaco’s liking, with the PSG defense and midfield using him as a target man, with Cavani, Matuidi and Lavezzi running behind him. Cavani and Ibra’s former clubs, Napoli and AC Milan, were also in action against each other during the match, but the two still don’t look like forming a cohesive partnership, with Cavani seeming out-of-place on the right wing. It came as something of a surprise, then, when the dangerous Lavezzi was taken off for Lucas Moura in a like-for-like swap, with Monaco showing attacking intent by bringing on James Rodríguez for Geoffrey Kondogbia.
Cavani and Ibrahimović both hit limp free kicks straight into the wall, and although Falcao’s hold-up play was less than stellar and Monaco had been flat in the break, one counter from Rodríguez nearly paid off for the visitors. He was lightning fast down the right wing, and although his early cross to Falcao looked delicious, it was an inch or two too high for the forward to make a telling contact. Sirigu was looking solid when shots were taken, but considerably less so when caught flapping at crosses.
The game began to fizzle out in the last ten or fifteen minutes with Monaco, to their credit, leaving the home fans quiet and anxious, but in stoppage time they nearly had something to cheer about. Cavani was blocked off but PSG maintained their pressure, and the last in a string of tantalizing crosses from the marvelous Maxwell was desperately headed over and Cavani sent a glancing header inches wide from a short corner. PSG manager Laurent Blanc was probably correct in saying, “Given the amount of chances we had we deserved to win,” but his opposite number Claudio Ranieri was left “very satisfied” with his players after a result which leaves them two points clear of PSG at the top of the table with six games played.