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PSG moves 5 points clear after 2-1 win at Ajaccio

January 11, 2014

PARIS (AP) — Although defending champion Paris Saint-Germain moved five points clear at the top of the French league after a hard-fought 2-1 win at last-place Ajaccio on Saturday, coach Laurent Blanc was far from happy with the overall performance.

Argentina winger Ezequiel Lavezzi and France midfielder Blaise Matuidi scored, with star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic setting up both despite having a poor game by his high standards.

Forward Eduardo gave Ajaccio the lead in the sixth minute after being set up by right winger Benjamin Andre, and the Corsican side looked comfortable in the first half, with the lively Johan Cavalli causing problems with his probing runs from midfield.

“We needed to play well in the first 20 minutes, which we didn’t do, and then we conceded the goal,” Blanc said. “We could have wrapped it up in the second half as we had a few chances, but Ajaccio really made it difficult for us.

“What annoys me is that we were vulnerable every time Ajaccio attacked. At the moment we think too much about what we’re going to do when we have the ball, and we forget what we’re supposed to do when we don’t have it.”

Lille can overtake Monaco and move into second place if it beats Reims at home on Sunday.

After striker Edinson Cavani missed two chances, PSG cut through Ajaccio’s defense easily for the equalizing goal in the 41st.

Cavani collected the ball in midfield from Ibrahimovic, turned and passed to Matuidi, whose pass released Ibrahimovic behind the defense and his cross from the right gave Lavezzi a comfortable finish from close range.

Ibrahimovic made a sloppy start to the second half, and it was a rare sight to see him casually giving possession away several times, even failing with one easy cross from the left as he let the ball slip away from him.

Ajaccio almost regained the lead in the 68th when Cavalli’s fine pass released Eduardo, and his shot from the right side of the penalty area forced goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu into a low save.

Shortly after, Blanc made two changes to spark some life into his listless team — taking off center half Alex and bringing on playmaker Javier Pastore, and replacing Lavezzi with winger Lucas Moura. Blanc switched to a 4-4-2 formation and Cavani moved in from the right to join Ibrahimovic in attack.

Moments later, PSG scored after a brilliant piece of skill from Pastore. The Argentine dragged the ball back and turned to hit a swerving pass over the Bastia defense. Ibrahimovic rose at the back post to head the ball down and Matuidi sprinted in to nod the ball past goalie Guillermo Ochoa.

“We were playing against a team fighting for survival. It’s a fair result,” Matuidi said. “The pitch wasn’t easy to play on either, it was very dry. It did bother us a bit. But let’s not look for excuses — the main thing is that we won and that we keep moving forward.

“It’s good to win and keep that gap. We’ve shown that we’ll be there (at the end) and we won’t give up.”

In other games, Saint-Etienne held onto fourth place despite a 0-0 draw at mid-table Guingamp, and fifth-place Bordeaux slipped to a 1-0 home defeat to Toulouse in an ill-tempered Garonne derby that saw one player sent off from each team in the first half. Denmark forward Martin Braithwaite scored the winner in the 53rd.

Also, it was: Lyon 2, Sochaux 0; Rennes 0, Nice 0, and Valenciennes 3, Bastia 2.

France midfielders Yoann Gourcuff and Clement Grenier had a goal each as Lyon moved up to ninth place.

In Sunday’s other games, Marseille goes to Evian and Nantes faces Lorient.

Monaco was held to a 1-1 draw at Montpellier on Friday.

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