Yesterday, Sunday, we had the opportunity to attend a more than interesting clash which could be decisive in the French league title. Lille OSC, third in the table, hosted Paris Saint Germain CF, second in the table and 5 points off the top team Montpellier Herault SC who had won on Friday against Toulouse FC (0-1). A Lille win, managed by Rudi Garcia, would put them just one point behind PSG, giving them a chance to finish top if they had good results in the last 4 matches.
The match, as you can see in image 1, had one team, Lille, who based their game on a balance between attack and defence, with width supplied by their wide attackers and full backs and constantly looking for a magic moment from their star, most effective, player. Hazard is capable of winning a match on his own and that's what happened again in last night's game.
As for Carlo Ancelotti's PSG, they were organised defensively, with 4 at the back, with Motta in front of them but with free attacking roles for their forward players. Their 1-4-3-2-1 system is called the Christmas Tree in France because it resembles one on the tactics board. Their game was based on the great attacking ability of their forwards any of whom can change the game in a moment.
As last night's game developed in the first half, we saw the home side, Lille, creating dangerous chances, but it was PSG who looked more likely to score as their players found space when they counter attacked through the great pace of Gameiro and the quality of his team mates like Pastore or Nene when they had the ball.
From outside Hazard was bit too deep and he was not influencing the game as much as he could do when Lille attacked. So as we said, Rudi Garcia's team were mainly creating a threat through Payet or De Melo but they were not giving you the feeling they were in control defensively which made you think that at any time, they were vulnerable to conceding the first goal of the game.
However, PSG, with their experienced back 4 and Motta in front of them along with the notable work rate of Matuidi and Sissoko in front of him, allowed the Paris side to defend well and then show the quality of their three offensive players, making you think that it would be the team from the capital who opened the scoring.
From the point of view of the game developing, Lille looked to switch the play, long and short, to try to unbalance the opposition on the wings and make a penetrating pass or cross for their most advanced player, De Melo, to show how good he is in the air.
PSG, though, looked for Motta when they had the ball and he tried to link with Nene or Pastore between lines or with Gameiro behind the defence.
The image below shows clearly the strategy both teams we using.
In the second half we saw a completely different game. And it was through Pastore's goal for the visitors which forced Rudi Garcia to make attacking changes to try to equalise. He did so, and I think he did well given the state of the game and the score. The introduction of Joe Cole and also Roux a bit later gave the team much more penetration and especially more incisiveness in attack.
And we can look at what happened now. A penetrating pass to Roux was the key moment in the game as he was brought down just as he got in to the box. It meant the sending off of the defender Sakho, who had come on for Bisevac as he was the one who brought down the home player giving away the penalty. The rest goes without saying. Hazard took the penalty with composure and made it 1-1.
From then on, Lille continued to attack, thanks to their numerical superiority, and a few minutes later Hazard's trick pass created the second goal which was the winner and gave the three points to Rudi Garcia's team.
A result that could be crucial in the end for the destination of the French league title because, apart from widening the gap with Montpellier who are out in front at the top, it also leaves Lille only one point behind PSG. So that's the situation which leaves both teams fighting for second place and the Parisians 5 points adrift with no margin for error to try to win the title. The league has been really interesting this season and even more so in the final weeks, with just 4 games left.