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Saturday August 9, 2014 MYT 6:32:29 AM
Saturday August 9, 2014 MYT 6:32:29 AM
REIMS France (Reuters) - Paris St Germain's Zlatan Ibrahimovic struck twice and missed a penalty in an enthralling 2-2 draw at Stade de Reims as the French champions avoided an embarrassing defeat when the Ligue 1 season got underway on Friday.
PSG, without newly-signed Brazil defender David Luiz, are favourites for a third straight title but will be disappointed at not holding on to an early lead and allowing a physical but technically weaker Reims to get in front before halftime.
PSG's Argentina midfielder Javier Pastore found Ibrahimovic just inside the area in the seventh minute, allowing the Sweden striker to slide the ball through Reims keeper Johnny Placide's legs for his first goal of the season.
PSG then missed three easy chances to kill the game in the first 20 minutes, with Ibrahimovic hitting the post and then having a penalty saved by Placide.
"It's a waste. We gave away the game ourselves, when we should have won it," PSG coach Laurent Blanc was quoted as saying by French media. "We gave Reims a stick to beat us with and they took advantage and used it."
After looking overwhelmed, Reims capitalised on some sloppy defending when midfielder Prince Oniangue got on the end of a freekick to score in the 22nd before Antoine Devaux linked up with striker Gaetan Charbonnier to beat keeper Salvatore Sirigu.
However, PSG regrouped at halftime and found their rhythm with Ibrahimovic's chip from near the goalline in the 63rd slipping through Placide's hands for his second of the game.
PSG's Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani, who has been linked with a move to the English Premier League, was denied his wish to play up front instead of on the wing and looked frustrated throughout the game as Blanc kept Ibrahimovic, Ligue 1 top scorer for the past two seasons, in the number nine position.
His counterpart at Reims, Jean-Luc Vasseur, in his first coaching job in France's top division, nearly pulled off an astonishing display of lese-majeste as the reigning champions were briefly humbled in the coronation place of French kings.
His side, which finished 11th last season under Hubert Fournier, showed glimpses of what could be a promising season by exploiting gaps left by PSG's attack-minded fullbacks.
"Before the match we would have taken a draw, so we are not disappointed. It's a not a bad start to the season," said Reims' second goalscorer Devaux.
PSG's midfield trio of Thiago Motta, Marco Verratti and, Pastore, who gave the best display of the night, proved too strong for a Reims side hampered by losing last term's top performer Gregorz Krychowiak to Sevilla in the close season.
PSG began their bid for a Ligue 1 title hat-trick without the world's most expensive defender, Luiz, who was unveiled to the media on Friday after signing from Chelsea for a 50 million euros (£39.97 million) transfer fee in June.
Most of the Ligue 1 programme is scheduled for Saturday, including Bastia hosting Olympique de Marseille (8 p.m. BST), while last season's runners-up AS Monaco welcome FC Lorient on Sunday when Olympique Lyonnais are at home to Stade Rennes.
(Writing by Tim Hepher; Editing by Ken Ferris)
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