On a weekend in which the formbook was ripped up in Ligue 1, Paris Saint-Germain failed to significantly build their lead at the summit of the standings as they threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 against in-form Saint-Etienne, who remain unbeaten in 2013.
Javier Pastore opened the scoring for the visitors early in the match, and when Zlatan Ibrahimovic added a second from the penalty spot the game seemed out of Sainte’s reach. However, an Alex own goal just before the break helped reinvigorate the home side, who levelled with less 20 minutes left through a fine Francois Clerc strike.
PSG started this match with the aura of champions as they played at a fantastic tempo and caught their opponents twice in the early moments.
A neat pass from Ibrahimovic released Pastore after only nine minutes, and the Argentine profited from some lamentable defending from Moustapha Bayal Sall to clip the ball over Stephane Ruffier and into the net.
Although the initial response from Saint-Etienne was strong, they were caught on the break by a long ball forward to Ezequiel Lavezzi, who went down in the box under a challenge from the home goalkeeper. Referee Anthony Gautier awarded the penalty, which was converted nonchalantly by Ibrahimovic.
Despite this strong start, Carlo Ancelotti’s side could not build on it, and before the break their lead was halved when a wicked cross from the impressive Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was turned into his own net by Alex under pressure from Brandao.
There was no relent in the intensity of a fascinating match after the interval, but it was the home side who were completely dictating matters. Aubameyang drew a terrific save from Salvatore Sirigu at his near post before the hosts moved deservedly level through the unlikeliest of sources.
A spate of pinball in the PSG box ended favourably for the hosts as the ball broke out to Clerc on the corner of the box, and the right-back bent a glorious shot into the very top corner of Sirigu’s goal.
Moments before the equalising goal, Ibrahimovic had a rare chance to put the game beyond the Loire side, but he powered a first-time shot wide after latching onto a searching Christophe Jallet pass forward.
It was, however, Saint-Etienne who looked the likelier side to claim the points come full-time, despite a David Beckham free kick that flirted with the home goal in the last minute.
A draw does little to damage PSG’s title hopes as none of the top six in Ligue 1 won this weekend, yet they failed to open up a seven-point advantage at the summit.
Saint-Etienne, meanwhile, have consolidated fourth and sent a real message to the other Champions League hopefuls that they are very much a force with the mental toughness to challenge until the last weekend in May, when the league reaches its conclusion.