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French leader PSG labors to 1-1 draw at Guingamp

January 25, 2014

PARIS (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain narrowly avoiding a second straight defeat in a scrappy 1-1 draw at mid-table Guingamp in the French league, prompting criticism of sloppy defending at set-pieces by coach Laurent Blanc on Saturday.

Center half Alex headed home from a corner in the 87th minute after striker Mustapha Yatabare did the same three minutes earlier to give Guingamp the lead. PSG was outplayed by Guingamp for much of the match, three days after losing 2-1 at home to Montpellier in the French Cup.

“We’ve conceded two goals in three games from set-pieces,” Blanc said. “At the moment our opponents know that they can hurt us on corners and free kicks. We always seem to have a player who’s not really concentrating and loses their player. The same thing happened against Montpellier.”

Second-place Monaco can close the gap at the top to three points if it beats Marseille at home on Sunday.

Blanc called the pitch “detestable” in the rainy conditions and said “it favored one team (Guingamp) more than the other.” However, Blanc praised Guingamp coach Jocelyn Gourvennec.

“With the limited means he has, what Gourvennec’s doing is incredible,” Blanc said.

With PSG star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic having a rare off day, Yatabare caught the eye and rose impressively to head Guingamp in front from Rachid Alioui’s corner in the 84th.

“Guingamp played with a lot of heart and caused us problems on the break,” PSG goalkeeper Salvatoire Sirigu said. “We knew they were very good on set-pieces. We need to think about the mistakes we made.”

PSG was missing captain Thiago Silva, who sat out the match with an ankle injury and was replaced at center half by Marquinhos, who was again out of sorts after a poor match against Montpellier.

After a scrappy opening to the match, Ibrahimovic tried his luck 40 meters out with an ambitious free kick that he blasted straight into the Guingamp wall, and Alioui went on a surging run and hit a powerful low shot just past the post.

PSG responded quickly and Edinson Cavani came close to his 21st goal of the season when he turned sharply and his goal-bound shot hit a defender’s thigh.

On halftime, Alioui went close with a swerving free kick that Sirigu saved with his legs.

“It was very hard to read the trajectory of the ball,” Sirigu said.

The ball bounced up and hit the crossbar, and it appeared that Guingamp should have got a penalty when Marquinhos grabbed Yatabare around the neck and pulled him down as he was about to pounce on the rebound.

“I don’t know if it was a penalty or not, there’s no point talking about it,” Sirigu said.

Alioui continued to cause problems after the break, and his cross was headed just wide by Yatabare.

Ibrahimovic managed his first shot on target in the 53rd, but his low strike was comfortably saved by Guy Ndy Assembe.

PSG midfielder Javier Pastore, who had a disappointing game, was taken off midway through the second half and replaced by winger Lucas. But Guingamp continued to look the better side, forcing two corners in quick succession.

The match between Toulouse and Bastia was postponed because of the local river’s rising water levels.

Toulouse’s stadium is on an island and the city’s prefect has banned any access due to the threat from the Garonne River, the French league said in a statement. No new date has been set.

Also, it was: Ajaccio 1, Sochaux 1; Montpellier 3, Nice 1; Nantes 0, Reims 0; and Valenciennes 1, Lorient 1.

In Sunday’s other games, Bordeaux hosts Saint-Etienne and resurgent Lyon faces Evian.

Third-place Lille was held to 1-1 by struggling Rennes on Friday.

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