A penalty from the Brazilian in the first half plus a late strike from the Argentine mean that PSG's Ligue 1 title dreams are still very much alive going into the final furlongParis Saint-Germain took advantage of Montpellier’s Tuesday-night slip against Evian by beating Saint-Etienne 2-0 at the Parc des Princes to close the gap at the summit of Ligue 1 to just three points.
A controversial penalty from Nene was sufficient to settle the match, with the Brazilian converting midway through the first half after Sylvain Marchal was adjudged to have fouled Jeremy Menez in the box, but Javier Pastore added a second late on for good measure.
PSG would be far the more aggressive force in the first half, but Sainte defended stoutly, even if they offered little when they were in possession. As a result, the home side were stilted at times, though the pace of Menez would inject some life into proceedings, and it was when he crashed to ground in the box that the home side were awarded the penalty that Nene struck home.
A particularly good run from the former Roma man then ended with him crashing a fine low drive from well outside the box off the face of Stephane Ruffier’s post.
Nene would pull the strings in many of PSG’s best attacks in the opening period, and just before the break he nearly fashioned a wonderful goal for Mathieu Bodmer, though the midfielder’s 18-yard scissor kick was unconvincingly palmed away by the visiting goalkeeper.
As an attacking threat in the first half, Saint-Etienne were largely disappointing, though they could easily have gone into the interval level. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s sheer speed allowed him to get away from Alex, and though his dink beat Salvatore Sirigu, Zoumana Camara swept round behind the goalkeeper to ensure his former club did not draw level.
Though les Verts dominated matters in the second period, threatening particularly from set pieces, at which PSG are renowned for their inability to defend, Sirigu was not stretched regularly. A lovely clipped cross from the excellent Fabien Lemoine couldn’t quite be reached by Banel Nicolita, while the nature of les Parisiens’ defending meant that the visitors, who exerted pressure until the end, always felt they had the chance of stealing an equaliser.
Only on occasion did PSG break with purpose. Pastore had a shot turned wide by Ruffier after more good work from Menez, who would go close himself after turning Albin Ebondo inside out with some wonderful skill.
Almost on the full-time whistle, the hosts grabbed their second goal, with Christophe Jallet’s inviting cross prodded home by Pastore.
With three matches remaining, PSG trail Montpellier by three points and are considered to have an easier run in, and perhaps equally crucially, they have a better goal difference than the league leaders. Ligue 1 is set to go down to the wire, and Carlo Ancelotti’s men are very much in the mix to win their first title in nearly 20 years.