PARIS (AP) — With star striker Kylian Mbappe on the bench, Paris Saint-Germain didn’t much look like a team that wanted to seal the French league title on Sunday.
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, who started in place of Mbappe, had one of the worst misses seen at the stadium, as PSG’s title celebrations were delayed for at least another week after a 2-2 draw against Strasbourg.
Amid disbelieving looks from teammates, with the score at 1-1 in the first half, Choupo-Moting accidentally prevented a goal for his team despite the ball being about to cross the goal-line.
Turning from hero to villain after scoring the opener, and under pressure, the forward stopped a chip over the Strasbourg goalkeeper from Christopher Nkunku, and gently nudged the ball onto the post before it was cleared.
“I thought that the defender was maybe going to take the ball and, after, I hesitated to take the ball, I asked myself if I was offside and everything went very quickly,” Choupo-Moting said. “I touched the ball but it went onto the post and that is a real shame because I think that Nkunku’s effort was going in on its own. I am sorry for that but we need to continue and keep our heads up.”
Without many of its star players, the Parisian club dropped points at home for the first time this season. PSG coach Thomas Tuchel decided to leave Mbappe on the bench until the 59th minute, a surprising decision especially after the league’s top scorer found the net in his seven previous league matches, and in the absence of injured forwards Angel Di Maria, Neymar and Edinson Cavani.
“We are using him too much,” Tuchel said trying to justify his decision. “Everybody is surprised but he played nine consecutive matches, with the scoring duties. We need to protect the players. It was necessary because Kylian felt a muscular (problem) over the past three matches.”
After Lille’s draw at Reims earlier in the day, PSG would have wrapped up a sixth league trophy in seven seasons with a win but instead needed a late equalizer from Thilo Kehrer to avoid an embarrassing loss.
PSG has a 20-point lead over Lille and will be crowned next week if it beats its northern rival away.
Strasbourg coach Thierry Laurey opted for a very defensive side that struggled to string passes together and rarely took the ball out of its own half during the first 20 minutes.
In an eventful game, Choupo-Moting put the hosts ahead in the 13th minute when Colin Dagba beat the offside trap down the right side to deliver a precise cross for the Cameroon international, who scored with a calm finish.
PSG could not hold onto its lead for long, though, as Strasbourg gradually got into the match to find space between the Parisian lines. Nuno Da Costa made the most of a quick counterattack ignited by Lionel Carole down the left flank to level in the 26th with a precise shot from inside the box.
After Choupo-Moting’s blunder, Strasbourg kept pushing and earned a corner kick in the 38th that PSG defenders failed to clear properly. Waiting outside the box, Anthony Goncalves calmly walked toward the ball and hammered it back to silence the Parc des Princes with a powerful strike that left goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon stranded.
Tuchel was dismissed 12 minutes into the second half for an outburst of anger that followed a dangerous tackle from Kenny Lala on Nkunku. Choupo-Moting left the pitch soon after to make way for Mbappe in the final half-hour.
The France international threatened immediately with a series of dribbles on the right side of the box as PSG accelerated the pace in search of an equalizer. He created danger on the other side of the area a few minutes later but his effort was stopped by Strasbourg ‘keeper Matz Sels.
Daniel Alves then hit the crossbar with a right-footed volley and Kehrer finally snatched the equalizer from a corner in the 82nd minute when he planted a header into the back of the net after being left unmarked.
OUDIN DENIES LILLE
Attacking midfielder Remi Oudin’s late goal salvaged a 1-1 draw for Reims against second-placed Lille. A homegrown product who joined the Champagne club when he was 15, Oudin canceled out Jose Fonte’s opener with his 10th goal this season in the 79th minute.
Ideally set up by a brilliant pass from Tristan Dingome, Oudin connected with the ball in the box and beat Lille ‘keeper Mike Maignan with a left-footed shot.
Oudin has played a key role in his team’s successes this season. With seven matches left to play, Reims has lost just six league games and is challenging for a place in European competition.
Lille extended its lead over Lyon to five points in their fight for the second automatic Champions League spot.
Nice secured three precious points in the race for European qualification with a 1-0 win against Montpellier.
Brazilian defender Dante’s goal in the 20th minute lifted the Riviera side to seventh place, just three points below fourth-placed Saint-Etienne.
Toulouse took a step toward safety with a 1-0 win against struggling Nantes. Issiaga Sylla scored the winner to help his team move four points above Vahid Halilhodzic’s squad. It was Nantes’ fourth consecutive loss in all competitions.
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