French leader Paris Saint-Germain defended shoddily and was dominated in midfield as it lost 3-2 at relegation battlers Sochaux on Sunday to give rivals Lyon and Marseille renewed hope in a title race that looked to be getting away from them.
While Marseille and Lyon won their matches this weekend, PSG lost for the first time since Dec. 1 and conceded three goals for the first time this season against a valiant Sochaux team that was in 17th place before kickoff and has nothing like PSG’s massive spending power.
”It’s a logical defeat because Sochaux played well. They were more aggressive,” PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti said. ”I asked the players to be vigilant from the outset, because I knew Sochaux would be in great shape. But we were lacking in balance and aggression, especially in the first half.”
It was a case of passion over pedigree as big-spending PSG was shaken from the outset and scored only from two corners, which was not enough as Sochaux tore PSG’s defense apart at times and scored through Sebastien Roudet, Giovanni Sio and substitute Cedric Bakambu.
Earlier Sunday, Lyon bounced back from three straight losses with a 4-0 win at Bordeaux and is now three points behind PSG, which travels to play Marseille next weekend. Marseille is five points behind PSG in third place after scraping an injury-time win against Valenciennes on Saturday.
”We will focus on the next match, because nothing’s over in terms of the title,” Ancelotti said. ”Everything’s open.”
Sochaux harried and caused problems early on, and Sio had the crowd on their feet with a blistering strike into the top right corner, only for the goal to be ruled out for offside.
With Sochaux well on top, Roudet’s shot appeared to be going in but deflected off teammate Ryad Boudebouz and trickled wide.
PSG had to wait until the 28th minute for its first chance, when winger Ezequiel Lavezzi ran onto Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s flick and sprinted clean through, but goalkeeper Simon Pouplin blocked his shot.
PSG took the lead moments later when Alex rose unchallenged to head Javier Pastore’s corner over Pouplin and into the top corner.
But Sochaux was much the better side and equalized in the 36th, when Boudebouz flicked the ball superbly into the feet of Roudet, who charged forward before planting a low shot into the bottom right corner past goalie Salvatore Sirigu.
”We decided to press PSG up the pitch in order to unsettle them,” Roudet said. ”Ryad set me up superbly.”
Sochaux continued to look the better side in the second half, and deservedly took the lead in the 54th when Sio swapped passes with Roudet and his fierce strike clipped Sirigu’s arm and went in.
Ibrahimovic and right back Gregory van der Wiel then drew smart saves from Pouplin, but it was a brief reprieve. Sochaux right back Sebastien Corchia almost made it 3-1 when his superb free kick came back off the crossbar, and midfielder Vincent Nogueria went close with a shot that flew just wide.
PSG’s scrappy equalizer came from a corner from the right. Following a hectic scramble, PSG center half Mamadou Sakho poked the ball forward and it sliced off the leg of Jerome Roussillon and into the net.
But Sochaux was not to be denied as the outstanding Boudebouz drifted over a superb pass to the back post in the 84th minute, and forward Sloan Privat nodded the ball back to fellow substitute Cedric Bakambu, who swept it in from close range.
”We came up against a very good team fighting to stay up,” PSG midfielder Clement Chantome said.
Lyon lost 2-1 at Tottenham in the Europa League on Thursday and had lost its previous two league games to fall behind in the title race.
Midfielder Clement Grenier scored twice either side of fellow midfielder Gueida Fofana’s goal and forward Alexandre Lacazette completed the scoring in the 75th minute.
”We have to keep a level head because we have important games ahead,” Lyon coach Remi Garde said, looking ahead to the return leg against Tottenham in the Europa League. ”It’s important not to concede a goal. We were efficient and took our chances.”
Despite an encouraging performance, Lyon’s players seem to have given up hope of catching PSG.
”Paris is way above everyone else, we’ve never spoken about the title,” Grenier said. ”I think we’re in our rightful position and we should focus on reaching the Champions League next season.”
Also Sunday, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored for the fourth successive league game to put Saint-Etienne ahead in the 10th, but midfielder Gaetan Courtet equalized for relegation-threatened Reims in the 76th with his eighth goal of the campaign.
Saint-Etienne stays one point behind Nice in fifth place, while Reims sits one place above the relegation zone.