Marco Verratti rebounds from recent criticism to lead PSG to draw with Lyon
Olympique Lyonnais vs. Paris Saint-Germain lived up to its billing as the biggest crunch clash of the Ligue 1 season so far as it was an entertaining 1-1 draw at Stade Gerland on Sunday night. Forward Clinton Njie put Lyon ahead after 31 minutes with a well-taken finish after a brilliant piece of play from attacking midfielder Nabil Fekir, but PSG leveled through striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic's penalty.
Although it was a controversial decision from referee Clement Turpin, it was easy to see why he penalised Lyon's defender Lindsay Rose for diving into an ill-advised slide tackle on the impressive PSG midfielder Marco Verratti. It is also ironic that, for all the chances created by Laurent Blanc's PSG (six shots on target), many of which were thwarted by the sensational Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes, it took a spot-kick from the Swede to draw them level.
Despite the debatable PSG equaliser, what cannot be debated is the fact that it was actually a much-improved performance from the French capital-based club. It was arguably the best football the reigning Ligue 1 champions have played in 2015 so far. Although the club missed a golden chance to make Ligue 1's top spot their own and remain in third place, the display was encouraging ahead of a grueling set of fixtures.
Player Ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Salvatore Sirigu, 5 -- The Italian did not have that much to do on the night, but he was well-beaten by Njie's opening goal and was nowhere near Corentin Tolisso's long-range effort that smacked the post before it. Sirigu looked assured for the remainder of the game, aside from one or two panicky moments at the back from the defence as a whole, but he was not really tested after the goal.
DF Marquinhos, 7 -- Not involved in the game enough in the first half, aside from a few forays forward on the right flank, the Brazilian enjoyed a strong second half performance. Marquinhos made a number of important tackles and posed a regular threat in attack, but his performance was capped by a brilliant late tackle to deny Fekir what would surely have been a second Lyon goal.
DF Thiago Silva, 7 -- Although he was one of the three PSG defenders caught out by Fekir's moment of magic to create Njie's goal, the captain was strong and authoritative at the back once again. Perhaps not as outstanding as he has been in the past few games, Silva was influential nonetheless and rallied his fellow Brazilian defensive troops well in the second half.
DF David Luiz, 6 -- The Selecao star was guilty of an awful early miss; heading wide after an Edinson Cavani flick-on from a corner. Luiz recovered afterwards, still looking flustered on occasions, but was largely solid and helped central defensive partner Silva to marshal the backline during an improved second half.
DF Maxwell, 6 -- Unspectacular and consistent enough at the back, the Brazilian left back was perhaps a little lacking going forward. Maxwell linked up well with midfielder Blaise Matuidi at times, but did not provide his usual threat from the left because of a balanced tussle between him and former PSG teammate Christophe Jallet at right-back for Lyon.
MF Thiago Motta, 5 -- Guilty of some loose passing and lapses in concentration, Motta still looks off the pace. The Italian has struggled to rediscover his best form this season and it looks more and more likely that his time as an undisputed starter is coming to an end. The 32-year-old inexplicably played his team into trouble as his wayward passes often stretched his teammates unnecessarily.
MF Marco Verratti, 8 -- The pint-sized Italian was PSG's man of the match by some way. He was combative and excellent on the ball, displaying some silky footwork at times and stood out with a disciplined performance.
Rightly criticised for his petulance during the defending champions' 1-0 win away at Lille OSC, there was none of that at Stade Gerland on Sunday. The Azzurri star's interceptions were excellent and he coaxed the nervous Rose into diving in to concede the penalty, which created the equaliser.
MF Blaise Matuidi, 5 -- This was one of the Frenchman's most disappointing performances of the season so far. Not at his irrepressible best, Matuidi looked stretched occasionally due to Motta's dire passing and reckless and wild in front of goal a handful of times in the first half. Far from the high standard now expected of him.
FW Lucas Moura, 3 -- It was almost as if the Brazilian never entered the pitch. Anonymous in the first half, Lucas was muted in the second as he continued to struggle to impose himself. It has been a similar story of late, although this time it was because the excellent Henri Bedimo marked him out of the game.
FW Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 7 -- Strangely, for a match in which he only scored from the penalty spot, this was actually one of the Swede's best showings in some time.
Sharp, although he did lose the ball that led to Lyon's opener, Ibrahimovic forced some good saves from the brilliant Lopes with a couple of second half headers. The PSG No. 10 saw his poor first penalty saved, but a re-take was correctly ordered for encroachment and he showed strong nerves to convert it.
FW Edinson Cavani, 3 -- Dreadful. The Uruguayan was wasteful, missing several great opportunities, even if Lopes was in outer-worldly form. Cavani's early missed chance, when played in by an excellent Ibrahimovic was possibly the worst of all his spurned chances.
El Matador had a string of must-score openings and missed them all and picked up a needless yellow card in the first half to compound a poor display. This match belied the myth that the South American does not get enough chances when loosely deployed on the left.
FW Ezequiel Lavezzi, NR -- Brought on after 76 minutes to replace Moura, Blanc could perhaps have acted faster and brought El Pocho on for the disappointing Cavani to give the team an injection of pace immediately after Ibrahimovic's equaliser. The last 14 minutes was not enough for Lavezzi to really do anything worthy of note.
MF Yohan Cabaye, NR -- Inside of one minute after coming on to replace Cavani with 10 to go, the French international was given a yellow card for an immediate foul on Lyon captain Maxime Gonalons. Aside from that, Cabaye contributed little in his cameo appearance. However, he did have a late effort on goal blocked as PSG piled on pressure in the dying stages.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.