Par[auth] is Saint Germain’s forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic from Sweden, right, challenges for the ball with Valenciennes’ defender Lindsay Rose, during their French League One soccer match, at the Parc des Princes stadium, in Paris, Sunday, May 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
PARIS (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain’s celebrations were put on hold as it failed to get the win it needed to all but seal the French title on Sunday, scraping a 1-1 home draw against Valenciennes and giving Marseille a glimmer of hope with three matches remaining.
A week after PSG had three players sent off in chaotic scenes following the 1-0 win at Evian, the club’s image took another hit as sporting director Leonardo deliberately shoulder-barged referee Alexandre Castro in the tunnel after the game. That was after Thiago Silva was sent off late in the first half for putting his hands on the chest of the referee as he contested a decision.
“Prepare better … this is not possible,” an angry Leonardo said as he shouted at Castro, before being dragged away by PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi.
Moments after the final whistle, top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic also launched a verbal tirade at Castro for sending off Silva.
“Refereeing in France is very, very harsh. We’re the most penalized team,” PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti said. “I don’t know if my players are too nervous. Maybe sometimes they are. I think the referees are also tired at the end of the season and can make more mistakes than usual. … It’s often happened (this season) that referees have made mistakes.”
A win would have all but guaranteed PSG a first title since 1994, and a third overall, but Valenciennes played attacking football and scored through midfielder Gael Danic in the 17th minute. Center half Alex equalized in the 83rd when he headed in powerfully from a corner.
“I know Thiago, he didn’t go with the intention of shoving the referee, just to talk to him as captain,” PSG midfielder Blaise Matuidi said. “Unfortunately, there was a bit of a misunderstanding and you have to accept that. Now we will work hard and try and win the title in Lyon.”
With three matches remaining, PSG is seven points ahead of Marseille but next faces a difficult trip to third-place Lyon, while Marseille hosts Toulouse.
“Lyon are playing for the Champions League and we are playing for the title, so it will be a tough match for both sides,” Ancelotti said.
Silva’s sending off came after three PSG players were red-carded last weekend.
Midfielders David Beckham, Thiago Motta and Marco Verratti and ‘keeper Salvatore Sirigu were all suspended, and now Silva is set to miss next weekend’s crucial trip to Lyon after Castro showed him a straight red in the 42nd.
Silva appeared to lightly push Castro in the chest, and although there was not much aggression on Silva’s part, both of his hands were on the referee.
PSG missed chances as Ibrahimovic tried an extravagent backheel that went wide, and midfielder Javier Pastore drew a smart save from Nicolas Penneteau.
Then, with a quick break, Valenciennes caught PSG cold and the ball was moved quickly up to forward Vincent Aboubakar, whose shot was palmed away by Douchez. But Danic confidently slotted in the rebound.
Valenciennes continued to attack and goalkeeper Nicolas Douchez tipped away Kenny Lala’s shot in the 65th.
Ibrahimovic almost leveled shortly after when he drilled a shot just wide and kicked the advertising hoardings in frustration, and Penneteau then kept out a shot from Pastore and a header from Alex.
Ibrahimovic was booked after the match for shouting at Castro — something the Swede has done several times with referees this season.
Earlier, Lyon strengthened its grip on third place with a convincing 3-0 win at Nancy to stay three points ahead of Nice in the race for a Champions League place.
Bafetimbi Gomis came off the bench to score twice for Lyon, after Argentine striker Dario Cvitanich had also got a brace for Nice which earlier won 3-0 at Rennes to move one point ahead of Saint-Etienne and into fourth.
“We knew it would be hard against a team in form, Gomis did really well when he came on,” Lyon coach Remi Garde said. “The attitude and the desire to never give up shown by those who started the game, and those who came on, made the difference.”
But Gomis was unhappy at being left on the bench, with 18-year-old Yassine Benzia starting ahead of him.
“I would rather start the game as I am trying to get into the France team,” Gomis said. “But sometimes the coach makes choices and you have to accept it, even though it’s not easy.”
The race for Europe is set to intensify with Nice hosting Lyon in two weeks’ time.