November 11, 2012

PARIS (AP) -- Paris Saint-Germain stayed top in the French league with a 1-1 draw at defending champion Montpellier on Sunday after playing most of the match with 10 men following center half Mamadou Sakho's early dismissal.

Sakho was shown a straight red card in the ninth minute for yanking center forward Gaetan Charbonnier's shirt when he was clean through on goal. Despite the early setback, PSG scored in the 37th minute thanks to a brilliant chip from Brazilian left back Maxwell.

Montpellier winger Remy Cabella capped a fine performance with the equalizer in the 59th, but just as Montpellier was getting on top midfielder Younes Belhanda was sent off with 25 minutes left.

"It was a hard game. After the red card we showed a lot of intensity, energy and organization,'' PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti said. "We played as a team. It's a draw but the team spirit was good.''

The draw made no difference to the top three places because Marseille drew 2-2 against Nice, twice throwing away the lead, and Lyon was also pegged back as it drew 1-1 at struggling Sochaux.

PSG and Marseille both have 23 points, but PSG has a better goal difference - although Marseille has a game in hand - and Lyon is one point behind them. Montpellier is 14th.

Sakho lost the ball in the ninth minute and blatantly held back Charbonnier. The way Sakho clumsily lost the ball will not have pleased Ancelotti. It also ruined striker Guillaume Hoarau's night as Ancelotti sacrificed the forward, taking him to bring Alex into the center of defense.

But PSG's sporting director Leonardo took the opportunity to vent his frustration, with some stinging comments aimed at referee Clement Turpin.

"You have to think properly before sending a player off,'' Leonado said. "I don't know what's going on with the referees. I don't know what they're doing, if they're professionals, if they train, if they prepare their matches.''

The week after Zlatan Ibrahimovic was deservedly sent off for a kick into the chest of Saint-Etienne goal Stephane Ruffier, Leonardo continued his rant.

"I'm just worried people are focusing too much on us. We're not asking for anything special,'' Leonardo said. "We want to be refereed normally. It's the same referee who sent off (Ezequiel) Lavezzi and Ancelotti against Ajaccio. Maybe it's a coincidence.''

Montpellier did little with the extra man and Maxwell punished some hesitant defending in the 37th minute.

The Brazilian picked up a loose ball close to the edge of the penalty area, advanced a few years and chipped it superbly over the head of goalkeeper Geoffrey Jourdren, who stood rooted to the spot as he was caught by surprise by the audacity and execution of Maxwell's shot.

"We watched them play and with players of that ability you can't leave them unmarked from that distance,'' Montpellier coach Rene Girard said.

Left winger Jeremy Menez, who has been in good form recently, wasted a chance just before halftime when he placed his shot too close to Jourdren after being played in by Lavezzi.

Montpellier equalized in the 59th when PSG midfielder Blaise Matuidi gave the ball away near the penalty area, Cabella chested it down and then struck a fine low shot out of the reach of `keeper Salvatore Sirigu.

Just as Montpellier was getting on top, midfielder Younes Belhanda got sent off in the 64th after picking up a second yellow card when he thrust his hands up in the air and blocked a pass with his hands.

Earlier, Lyon took the lead in the 24th minute when midfielder Maxime Gonalons headed in Steed Malbranque's free kick.

Sloan Privat equalized in the 71st to move Sochaux up to 18th place.

"Looking at things positively, we'll say that Marseille dropped two points at home while we were playing away,'' Lyon goalkeeper Remy Vercoutre said.

At Stade Velodrome, Ghana winger Andre Ayew scored for the second successive league match to put Marseille ahead in the 40th minute, but Argentine forward Dario Cvitanich equalized soon after halftime.

France winger Mathieu Valbuena restored Marseille's lead midway through the second half, only for Nice winger Fabrice Abriel to level in the 88th against his former club.

It was not a good day for Marseille, with striker Loic Remy limping off toward the end with a thigh injury, and Valbuena missing a penalty midway through the first half, when his shot was saved by `keeper David Ospina.

"It was our first penalty of the season,'' said Marseille coach Elie Baup, justifying Valbuena's decision to take it. "There were several candidates to take it. Mathieu is among those, and then it's a question of feeling. You're talking about players who are internationals, it's not primary school.''

Valbuena set up the first goal when his cross was met by Ayew's header.

Marseille drew 2-2 at home to Borussia Moenchengladbach in the Europa League on Thursday, despite twice taking the lead, and again paid for some poor defending.

"We didn't do the right things and paid for it,'' Marseille center half Nicolas N'Koulou said.

Also, Bordeaux thrashed a poor Lorient side 4-0 away from home to move up to sixth spot. Brazilian winger Jussie and Poland midfielder Ludovic Obraniak scored in the first half, while forwards Henri Saivet and Yoan Gouffran grabbed a goal each after the break.

Lorient has not won since Sept. 16 and conceded 16 goals in the past four matches.

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