'Finish the year with our heads held high'. On the eve of the final game of 2011, coach Antoine Kombouaré set the tone in his pre-match press conference before jetting off to Saint-Etienne. An away trip to the Loire is never that easy because even in December, 'le Chaudron' is still a fiery place, but even more so right now having taken 13 from a possible 15 from their last five L1 matches. A huge challenge for Les Rouge et Bleu, but the honorary title of Champion d’automne was the reward for one last triumph.
While the home side took the game to PSG in the opening minutes, it was the Parisians that carved out the better chances when Pastore played in Gameiro, only for the France international to be stopped in extremis by Marchal (11').
The match played at 100mph
Three minutes later, ASSE's attackers replied with Sinama-Pongolle releasing Aubameyang who blasted over (14').
Time ticked by before Sinama-Pongolle had another great chance, only to be denied, twice in quick succession by Sirigu (22')!
In the moments that followed Marchal got free but couldn't direct his header goalwards (24'). At the other end, the Sainté defender then saved his side, clearing Pastore's shot off the line after the PSG No.27 had eliminated Les Verts' 'keeper Ruffier (29'). The opening goal duly arrived four minutes later...
It was Nene's corner from the left that was met perfectly by Bodmer's header that crashed into the goal off a combination of post and 'keeper (0-1, 33').
Nene went close (37'), followed by Pastore and Jallet (42e) as PSG finished the first half right on top and the referee's whistle saw PSG in front and on top of the league.
After the break, PSG's Brazilian duo of Ceara and Nene combined to great effect but couldn't add a second goal (49'). Sako was denied by Sirigu at the other end (53'), and the ball flew up the field where Gameiro drew a fabulous save from Ruffier (54').
The two were back at it four minutes later when Gameiro, expertly picked out by Ménez, lifted the ball over Ruffier, only to see it come back off the post (58')!!!
With half an hour to go, it was time for the Sirigu show. Having already impressed in PSG's last game against the LOSC, the Italian international showed all his class in a stunning finish to 2011.
On no-less than four occasions, Sirigu denied Aubameyang (71') and Sinama-Pongolle (71', 77', 85'), preserving all three points for the capital club.
At the other end, Ruffier was keeping busy too, denying Ménez (79'), Gameiro (82') and Nene (83').
There was one last scare from Sako (90+3') before M. Ennjimi blew for the final time of 2011. There was plenty to be happy about this evening, not least the victory, coupled with Montpellier's loss two hours earlier against Evian Thonon-Gaillard (2-4), which sees Les Rouge et Bleu alone atop of the L1 standings.
And now, with three points more than their nearest rival, Les Parisiens are crowned Champions d'automne! An honorary title, yes, but one that bodes well for the New Year.
The PSG squad leaves the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on holidays with a big smile and looking forward to 2012!