PSG enjoy domestic comforts after European agony


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It is a competition that France's clubs would happily do away with, but in the end the final of the League Cup on Saturday had rather a lot riding on it for Paris Saint-Germain and their 2-1 victory against Lyon helped ease the pain of the previous ten days.


The secondary national knockout competition, introduced 20 years ago, is at the bottom of almost every team's list of priorities at the start of each season and yet it is a tournament that has been kind to PSG in the past.

This was the fourth time they have lifted the trophy and it set them up to secure an inevitable domestic double, which will be an improvement on 12 months ago, when Carlo Ancelotti's side only got their hands on the league championship trophy.

Winning one of the two domestic cups along with Ligue 1 was set out as a target for Laurent Blanc when he took over the capital club last summer, even if the Champions League is the only competition that seriously matters to their Qatari owners.

A lot of soul-searching has been done since the quarter-final defeat to Chelsea on away goals earlier this month, which underlined how far PSG still have to go to become a genuine contender to win the biggest prize in club football and heaped pressure on Blanc, who appeared a little out of his depth at times up against José Mourinho at Stamford Bridge.

The margins are of course fine at the highest level and Paris were only three minutes away from reaching the semi-finals for the first time in 19 years. Instead, they were left licking their wounds and a 1-0 defeat away to Lyon in the league a few days later hinted at the onset of a malaise at a time when talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic was missing due to injury.

The latter result only slightly slowed PSG's charge towards a second consecutive Ligue 1 title, and yet it led to speculation that Blanc was now hanging on to his job. Another defeat to Lyon six days later at the Stade de France was now unthinkable, despite the fact that Blanc has been mulling over the offer of a new contract to extend his deal beyond the end of next season.

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However, club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi sought to calm the tension by declaring his support for Blanc in an interview with Le Parisien in which he said: "He is our coach today and I insist that I want him to stay. He has my unconditional support and nothing that happens on the field can change that."

We will never know if he would have said the same thing in the event of a Lyon victory at the Stade de France, because PSG were just too strong. Edinson Cavani scored twice in the first half to hit back at some of those who had criticised his recent contributions, and that ultimately proved enough to win the game despite France World Cup hopeful Alexandre Lacazette pulling a goal back in the second half.

This was not vintage PSG though. They were helped by the timidity of their opponents in the first half an hour. Indeed, if you wanted to know why Marco Verratti kept getting caught in possession against Chelsea, you only had to look at Lyon's approach when they were already trailing 1-0.

Rémi Garde's side got everyone behind the ball and refused to press the PSG players when they had possession in their own half, giving Verratti all the time he wanted to sprinkle passes from side to side. They were also helped by the referee, though, as Cavani's second goal came from a penalty that should never have been awarded after Lyon 'keeper Anthony Lopes and Lucas Moura collided outside the box.

"We lost the final because of a refereeing mistake," insisted a downbeat Garde at full time.

Lyon feel they have been undone all too often by such errors ever since conceding three offside goals in a defeat to Monaco last month, but PSG will not be concerned about that.

Blanc reprimanded one journalist for pressing him on his future after the game while midfielder Blaise Matuidi said that the Chelsea defeat was now out of their minds.

"It's forgotten about. Other big teams were knocked out as well. That's what happens in the Champions League. We said at the start of the year that it would be difficult. We've turned the page. It can wait until next year," he said.

For now, the focus is on securing the title as soon as possible.

By Andy Scott - on Twitter @andpscott

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