Spirits were lifted at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday night when Paris Saint-Germain FC secured their place in the last 32 of the UEFA Cup with an impressive 4-0 victory against Group G winners Panathinaikos FC.
Group stage chaos
A chaotic group stage campaign, comprising a 4-2 home loss to Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC sandwiched between goalless draws at AFC Rapid Bucuresti and FK Mladá Boleslav, had left PSG facing elimination from the competition. However, Wednesday's triumph lifted PSG to second place in the section behind Panathinaikos.
Keep the faith
Despite recent criticism of the striker, coach Guy Lacombe had kept faith with Pauleta, saying: "I'm convinced Pedro will make the difference again because he's a great goal hunter." Lacombe was rewarded in the 29th minute when Pauleta opened the scoring with a right-foot finish. Pauleta added a second early in the second half, before Bonaventure Kalou scored his own double in the 52nd and 54th minutes. The result was Lacombe's biggest home win since joining PSG last season. "The fans wanted to stay in Europe after the Christmas break - I'm proud to have satisfied them," the 51-year-old former FC Sochaux-Montbéliard boss said.
With the unfortunate events of 23 November - when post-match rioting following the visit of Hapoel Tel-Aviv culminated in a fan being killed - as the nadir, it has been a largely unsatisfactory campaign for PSG and their supporters. Indeed, the victory against Panathinaikos was their first win in all competitions since 28 October. According to defender Sylvain Armand, the much-improved performance was important because it allowed the team to "be reconciled with the fans". It may also provide a much-needed boost for a PSG side lying 15th in France's Ligue 1. "We now need to confirm we're back," said Lacombe.
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