Monaco retains top spot after drawing PSG

Monaco blew a two-goal lead against Sochaux in a 2-2 draw. (Thibault Camus/AP)

PARIS — The clash of big spenders in the French league finished even as Paris Saint-Germain drew 1-1 at home against Monaco on Sunday and missed the chance to replace its title rival at the top of the standings.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic gave PSG an early lead with a spectacular finish and Radamel Falcao responded with a fine poacher’s effort as two of the best strikers in the world cancelled each other out in a match that started at a frenetic pace before fizzling out in the second half.

"Given the amount of chances we had I think we deserved to win," PSG coach Laurent Blanc said. "It was a good match and there could have been more goals. What pleased me is that both coaches wanted to win the game."

Monaco, which spent even more money than PSG in the off-season, remains two points clear of PSG, which leads third-place Saint-Etienne on goal difference.

"I’m very satisfied with my players," Monaco coach Claude Ranieri said. "I was very curious before the match to see how my team would play. PSG have a lot of quality players and they have more experience than us. We have a lot of young players and we were up against a team with a lot of big champions."

Elsewhere, the goals flowed as Lyon beat Nantes 3-1, Nice thrashed Valenciennes 4-0 and Lorient drew 3-3 with Bordeaux.

Striker Edinson Cavani had two chances to win the match for PSG in injury time but first his shot was blocked by defender Andrea Raggi and then his glancing header flashed just wide moments later.

"Unfortunately we didn’t take our chances," Blanc said.

Owned by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, promoted Monaco spent about 170 million euros ($230 million) this summer. PSG, bankrolled by Qatar Sports Investments, splashed out 114 million euros ($154 million), having spent more than that last season.

Falcao joined from Atletico Madrid in a deal estimated to be worth 60 million euros ($79 million), while Cavani cost PSG 64 million euros ($84 million) in the fifth most expensive transfer in history.

PSG took only five minutes to strike first when Ibrahimovic emphatically volleyed in Maxwell’s cross from the left.

The move was started by centre half Thiago Silva, whose superb 40-yard pass sailed over the Monaco midfield and gave countryman Maxwell time and space to pick out Ibrahimovic, who jabbed the ball in with the bottom of his boot.

"To concede a goal against PSG is normal, but we reacted very well, with a lot of courage, a lot of mental strength," Ranieri said. "This team has a bright future."

Ibrahimovic topped the scoring charts last season with 30 goals but this was only his second so far this term.

PSG lost Silva to injury after 20 minutes as he limped off clutching the back of his thigh.

"I think we’ll be without him for a little while," Blanc said.

That left PSG with a makeshift defensive pairing of 19-year-old Marquinhos and fourth-choice centre back Zoumana Camara to face Falcao, and three minutes later the Colombian sprinted to the near post and headed in Joao Moutinho’s cross from the left.

Ibrahimovic was in one of his daring moods, and tried his luck with a powerful shot from 35 yards that had goalkeeper Danijel Subasic scampering to his left to tip wide for a corner.

But with Ibrahimovic hogging possession, Cavani seemed at a loss, sometimes making the same runs and at other times isolated as he waited for a pass. It took 30 minutes for him to get any space and when he did, he fired a low shot that skidded past the post.

"Their partnership could be better," Blanc said. "We have to try and fight the right system."

PSG should have scored five minutes before halftime, with Ibrahimovic heading over from Cavani’s free kick from six yards out. Marco Verrati then opened up Monaco’s defence with a slick pass to send Ibrahimovic free down the left. He checked inside his marker and then curled a pass over to Ezequiel Lavezzi, who volleyed over.

Falcao responded by curling a free kick just wide.

PSG had the first chance after the break when Lavezzi burst down the left and crossed for Ibrahimovic, who flicked the ball just wide. Falcao then almost broke free with a sublime piece of skill as he flicked the ball over his head, only to be closed down before he could shoot.

Meanwhile, striker Bafetimbi Gomis scored his first goal of the season as Lyon ended its six-match winless run and climbed to seventh place.

Dario Cvitanich scored from the penalty spot to give fifth-place Nice its first goal in the new 35,000-seater Allianz Riviera stadium.

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