The only thing that stood out in Paris Saint-Germain’s performance against LOSC Lille in Ligue 1 on Saturday, April 3 at the Parc des Princes was Keylor Navas’ dyed, beaming blonde hair — the only source of light amongst a gloomy Parisian squad that failed to perform at the level expected of them.
PSG and Lille entered the match tied joint-first in the table with 63 points. This match decided who would be first in the league going into the season’s Round 32. Since Paris has a better goal differential than “Les Dogues,” a draw would see them remain as league leaders. A win by Mauricio Pochettino’s men would put them three points clear of Lille, while a win by Christophe Galtier’s squad would put them three points clear of PSG.
Although a draw would still see Paris at the top of the league, that is not what they aimed for. The Parisians wanted to defeat Lille to cement themselves as the rightful leaders of France, and garner momentum before their gladiator-like clash against the Bavarians in the UEFA Champions League.
However, their dreams of victory came to a screeching halt in the 20th minute. Lille midfielder Renato Sanches played a through ball to forward Jonathan Ikone, which allowed him to run towards the Paris goal. Just when Ikone was about to enter the right side of the 18-yard box, he cut it back to his fellow forward Jonathan David, who was unmarked at the top of the box.
David took a touch and proceeded to shoot it towards goal. The ball deflected off center back Marquinhos and into the back of the net to give Lille the 1-0 lead.
Since Paris dominated possession and was creating chances in Lille’s final third before the equalizer, not much changed for them. They knew they would face a staunch defensive block from the onset, which meant possession would be theirs from the get-go. As a result, they needed to combine and create goal scoring opportunities like they had in the opening 20 minutes.
Nevertheless, the superstar-ridden squad could not find a way past the 11 Lille players behind the ball. Time and time again, they combined or put balls into the box, which ultimately came to no avail. As a result of these desperate efforts to get the equalizer, Paris left themselves exposed at the back, and were lucky not to concede from the multiple counter attacks by “Les Dogues.”
PSG began the second half as they had finished the first. They combined and held possession of the ball, but still could not find cracks in the opposition. This frustration led to a yellow card for Neymar in the 47th minute after he lightly headbutted Lille midfielder Benjamin Andre, and then pushed his face away with his hand.
Paris’ desperation made it that much harder to find the equalizer, as, from a Parisian perspective, the goal began to look smaller and smaller. This was exacerbated in the 69th minute, when PSG had their best chance of the match. Marquinhos put a cross into the box that found an unmarked Neymar, who failed to direct his header on target. The Brazilian should have scored from here, and it only added to the doubt felt amongst the squad — they believed the ball would simply refuse to find the back of the net.
The final minutes of the second half arrived, and PSG was no closer to scoring a goal. They had put cross after cross into the box
, and taken multiple shots on net, all of which came to no avail. As a result, a boiling point was reached. In the 89th minute, Lille right back Tiago Djalo and Neymar went shoulder-to-shoulder in an attempt to win the ball. Djalo won the battle, and won a throw-in for his team. While Djalo went to retrieve the ball to throw it in, Neymar followed him and pushed him to the floor.
Without a second thought, the referee reached for his pocket and pulled out a second yellow card, and then a subsequent red card. Djalo also received a second yellow and subsequent read. Both were done for the day with only four minutes left in stoppage time. As both players left the pitch, they conversed about what occurred between them. The conversation got more and more heated as they entered the tunnel, and reached a breaking point when Neymar pushed the side of Djallo’s head with his hand.
Security was already between the two players, so Djallo could not react. However, Neymar attempted to evade security and get to Djallo. Djallo ran towards Neymar and attempted to get past the security in front of him, but was unsuccessful. Both were then sent to their respective dressing rooms.
On the pitch, PSG was unable to find an equalizer in the remaining minutes of stoppage time. The final whistle blew, and Lille successfully defeated the Parisians 1-0 in their own backyard to go three points clear of the richest club in France.
Lille now sits first in the table with 66 points, while Paris sits in second with 63 points. Monaco now only sits one point back of PSG, in third with 62 points. Olympique Lyonnais sits in fourth with 61 points.
It goes without saying that the indiscipline on the part of Neymar is simply unacceptable. The two yellow cards he received were more than avoidable, and he must know how damaging his selfish actions are to the rest of the team. He will now miss PSG’s next Ligue 1 match against RC Strasbourg Alsace on Saturday, April 10 at 11 a.m.
Neymar will have a chance to redeem himself against the Bavarians on Wednesday, April
. 7 at 3 p.m. at the Allianz Arena. Nevertheless, his actions cannot be tolerated by the club, as the nearly 30 –year-old midfielder continuously conducts himself like an undisciplined teenager.
PSG will be without key midfielder Marco Verratti, who tested positive for COVID-19 after he returned from the international break. Right back Alessandro Florenzi — who is teammates with Verratti on the Italian national team — also tested positive for COVID-19 and will be out for the game.
Pochettino needs to come up with some type of tactical adjustment, or a complete overhaul of the formation in general. Clearly, there is something that hinders the attack of the team. Moreover, their susceptibility for counterattacks will most definitely hurt them against the reigning European champions.
Bavaria smells blood in the water, and humiliation might came Paris’ way if they are not careful.