PSG seals top spot with win over Porto

Paris Saint-Germain bounced back from a run of poor domestic form to beat FC Porto 2-1 in the Champions League on Wednesday and seal top spot in Group A.

In a closely contested match, Brazil center half Thiago Silva headed PSG in front in the 29th minute, only for Colombia striker Jackson Martinez to equalize four minutes later.

It was another South American, Argentina winger Ezequiel Lavezzi, who scored PSG’s winning goal in the 61st.

The win will boost PSG’s morale and life some pressure off Ancelotti following three losses in the past five league games and last week’s elimination from the League Cup quarterfinals. On the eve of the match, there were reports that he was close to losing his job.

”It was a good performance from us and we needed it to get the quality, attitude and spirit of the team back,” Ancelotti said. ”The players responded well tonight, as the criticism had been very hard.”

The Italian had threatened radical changes and demanded instant improvement, and he was happy with the response.

”All the players showed a good attitude and played for the team, which shows that the relations aren’t too bad,” Ancelotti said, when asked if this will ease the tensions within the squad. ”If we show the same attitude in the league I am sure things will improve rapidly.”

PSG tops the group with 15 points. Porto is next with 13, while Dynamo Kiev finished third to reach the Europa League.

”It’s very important to finish in first place, and to have played good football with character and quality,” Ancelotti said.

But Ancelotti’s relief may prove to be short-lived as PSG has a potentially tough match in the next round, as Arsenal, AC Milan and Real Madrid all finished second in their groups.

”It will be a difficult draw because a lot of (good) teams finished in second place,” Ancelotti said.

PSG started brightly and winger Jeremy Menez slipped the ball in behind the defense for Javier Pastore, whose first-time cross was met by striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the near post to flash wide across goal.

Menez was involved again in the 10th minute, running onto midfielder Blaise Matuidi’s clipped pass over the defense and hitting a dangerous low cross that was cut out for a corner.

Shortly afterward, Martinez had Porto’s first shot following a lost possession by Silva, but his fiercely struck effort flew past the right post.

Menez was PSG’s most dangerous player in the first half and it was his darting run down the left which drew a foul and led to the opening goal. Maxwell whipped in a free kick, and Silva rose above the defense to nod the ball in off the underside of the crossbar.

”What we needed was concentration, which we didn’t have,” Porto coach Vitor Pereira said. ”We managed to come back into the game once, but not twice … But this will be a good lesson for the next match.”

Poor marking from Silva, however, allowed Martinez to sneak in behind at the back post and head in right back Danilo’s cross from the right.

PSG combined spells of electric attacking moves with periods of disjointed play and a lack of ideas. Porto’s seamless passing and movement, allied to athletic running down the flanks, gave the Portuguese side a more cohesive look.

”A few times we had problems when we defended too deep (in the first half), so I told the players to close down higher up the pitch,” Ancelotti said.

Porto goalkeeper Helton’s agility kept the scores level at the break. Ibrahimovic almost lobbed him with an instinctive snap header after latching onto Silva’s headed flick on in the penalty area.

PSG should have gone ahead early in the second half when Alex’s pass released Menez down the left, but he took too long to line up his shot and that allowed Danilo time to close him down.

Menez’s fine dribbling ability goes in tandem with his wasteful finishing, and he confirmed his reputation as an inconsistent scorer when he blasted the ball straight at Helton after Javier Pastore had played him in perfectly.

PSG then went ahead following a quickly worked corner. Menez passed to Lavezzi, and Helton allowed his low shot to squeeze past him and into the bottom corner.

”We have to react well to this match,” Porto midfielder Joao Moutinho said. ”We created chances but we could not win. ”

Porto missed a great chance to equalize when Martinez found space inside the penalty area, only to be denied by a point-blank save from goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu in the 79th. The rebound fell to Lucho Gonzalez, who blazed the ball high over the crossbar with the goal at his mercy, prompting howls of derision from the crowd at Parc des Princes.

Ibrahimovic, who had a quiet match, was jeered by the home fans for trying an extravagant shot from 25 meters, rather than pass the ball to an unmarked Menez.

To make matters worse, the imposing Swede then shot wide from six yards. Pastore, having his best game of a troubled season in which he has been in and out of the team, went close with a glancing header in the 88th.

”(Pastore) worked for the team, he defended, he had a fine game,” Ancelotti said.