Ligue 1: Mauro Icardi barely saves PSG a point in Lorient as Sergio Ramos gets red-carded

Paris Saint-Germain finished 2021 with a 1-1 draw away at FC Lorient in Ligue 1 which saw Mauro Icardi rescue the late, late point after Sergio Ramos had been dismissed for two yellow cards after coming on as a substitute.

Mauricio Pochettino’s squad almost weathered Les Merlus’ attacking storm until halftime, but Thomas Monconduit put the embattled hosts ahead as they sought to end a seven-match losing streak in Le Championnat.

To make matters worse at Stade du Moustoir, Ramos was sent on at the break and did not even last the entire second half as a quickfire pair of bookings saw him sent off as time ticked down for Les Parisiens.

As has often been the case this season, though, there was a late twist which enabled PSG to just about avoid defeat and once more it was Icardi who provided it when he headed in from an Achraf Hakimi cross in injury time.

“This was a very, very difficult match,” said Ander Herrera after the match. “Lorient were very well organized and played very defensively. Even though we were up against that, we deserved to win. We created chances, especially in the second half, but you always suffer if you do not score. Lorient are a defensively strong team.

“I think that we did all we could to win but did not take our chances. Ligue 1 is strong, and I think that there is a lack of respect towards it. The level improves year after year. If we score two or three of those chances, then we win. However, we are 13 points clear of second and that statistic says all you need to know.”

Although harsh on Lorient, it was of major relief for the men from the capital who once again toiled against lower ranked domestic opponents despite Lionel Messi hitting the woodwork and generously poor finishing from the home side.

“It is not a miracle,” said PSG captain Marquinhos after the final whistle. “We worked and we tried. The circumstances dictated that we had a lot of the ball and they waited on us. They waited for a mistake and punished it with a goal. We were down a man and still managed to score.

“We had chances and if we take our ones in the first half, then we change the game. We also want matches to be faster paced, but that is not always easy. Teams are motivated to play against PSG. That often makes things difficult for us as they defend low.”

Pochettino and PSG now head into 2022 with a provisional 13-point lead at the Ligue 1 summit which may well be cut to 10 by Olympique de Marseille while the need to improve collectively remains stronger than ever.

Kylian Mbappe and Marco Verratti were suspended for the chilly trip to Brittany while Neymar is still at least a month away from returning from his latest injury setback, but the issues go deeper than that under Pochettino.

It is almost exactly 12 months since the Argentine took over from Thomas Tuchel and he is no closer to stamping his authority on this squad or imposing a recognizable identity when the team takes to the pitch.

This draw will ultimately count for nothing in all probability as PSG remain comfortable in the race for the Ligue 1 title, but the lack of chemistry and a common objective will see the group picked apart in the UEFA Champions League when they come up against Real Madrid in the knockout phase.

There is, of course, the possibility that the French giants move to make a midseason change as they did last campaign but whoever might replace Pochettino — Zinedine Zidane was a strong recent favorite — they will also have plenty of work in front of them.

PSG’s best hope for success is that their star-studded team wakes up and starts to pull together collectively knowing that it is the only way they will come even remotely close to achieving this term’s goals which include Champions League success.

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