Paris Saint-Germain lost 3-1 against Lens on Sunday, their first loss in any competition since March 20 last year. The team was missing World Cup champion Lionel Messi and Neymar.
PSG head coach Christophe Galtier admitted that Lens earned their victory. After 17 games, Lens is only four points behind league-leading PSG thanks to Lois Openda’s two goals and an assist. Lens has only lost once in Ligue 1 this season.
“We are happy to be four points behind,” said Lens coach Franck Haise. “This victory proves that we can beat anyone in this championship.”
The last time Paris Saint-Germain suffered a defeat was more than nine months ago when they were defeated 3-0 by Monaco in Ligue 1. Despite this, PSG are still 12 points ahead of second place in the table.
PSG were without Messi and suspended Brazilian Neymar on Sunday at Lens. Still, Golden Boot winner in Qatar, Kylian Mbappe, was greeted with a roaring ovation by the Lens fans during pregame warmups.
Galtier expressed his desire for a similar response for Messi from French fans.
Galtier remarked, “He’s going to join us on January 3; that’s in 48 hours. I hope Leo will be well received. He won the most beautiful trophy by being very good. We know he’s a great and decisive player so we hope he’ll be well received obviously.”
“Kylian worked had,” Galtier remarked. “He showed a very good attitude.”
“Leo and ‘Ney’ were not there but that is no excuse.”
After only five minutes, Lens was ahead thanks to a goal by Przemyslaw Frankowski, who scored after PSG goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma saved an attempt by Massadio Haidara.
Hugo Ekitike retaliated three minutes later by slamming the ball past the Lens goalkeeper Brice Samba as he dove to collect a pass.
It took 28 minutes, but then Lens took command. Seko Fofana gained possession near his penalty area, drove past two players, and threaded a pass through the middle of the PSG defence to Openda using precise timing and distance. The Belgian broke free and fired a shot that went just under Donnarumma’s crossbar.
Lens started the second half strong, applying pressure that paid off when they won possession deep within the PSG half in the 48th minute.
When Openda received the ball inside the penalty area, he backheeled it, catching the defence off guard and setting up a close-range goal for Alexis Claude Maurice.
Although the French league typically takes a break during the Christmas holiday, games that had to be rescheduled due to the World Cup meant that one round was played on the day after Christmas and another on Sunday and Monday.
In a homage to the English custom of Boxing Day games, the organisers have given the tournament the English name “Celebration Week,” however many fans view it with suspicion or hostility.
Fans unfurled protest banners in a mostly empty stadium in Nantes, where the home club beat Auxerre 1-0. One of the banners said that the league and broadcasters were “killing” them.
Aleksandr Golovin scored the game’s lone goal from outside the box, and Monaco’s 1-0 victory over Brest was enough to keep them in fourth place.
Angers’ ninth straight loss cemented their position at the bottom of the table when they were defeated by Lorient, 2-1, in a match in which the visitors ended a winless streak of their own of six games.
Moroccan World Cup heroes Sofiane Boufal and Azzedine Ounahi, who have recently returned from vacation and have been promised lucrative moves, were honoured before the game but did not play for the home team.
Abdel Bouhazama, coach of Angers, remarked, “I was happy to see Sofiane and Azzedine. For the moment they are here. For the rest, I leave that to the club directors. I take care of what happens on the pitch.”