Paris Saint-Germain registered their first win of the Ligue 1 season by beating Valenciennes 2-1 on Sunday, as French record signing Javier Pastore made his long-awaited home debut. Victory took PSG into the top half of the table, but they already trail early pace-setters Montpellier by five points after Rene Girard's side secured a third straight win by crushing Rennes 4-0.
"It was a really important victory," said PSG coach Antoine Kombouare, who had come under pressure after a 1-0 loss to Lorient and a 1-1 draw at Rennes. "People were expecting things from us and we absolutely had to win. A hard-earned victory lets you see the mental strength of a team."
PSG toiled amid stifling 32 degrees Celsius heat at Parc des Princes and had goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu to thank for denying Gaetan Bong after the Valenciennes defender ambled into the PSG box mid-way through the first half. The hosts went in front in the 39th minute, with Kevin Gameiro running on to Jeremy Menez's subtle pass before lifting the ball over Nicolas Penneteau.
Their lead did not survive until the half-time interval, however, as Remi Gomis drew the visitors level with a header from Renaud Cohade's inviting right-wing cross. Pastore, a €42m ($60m) acquisition from Palermo, came on as a substitute shortly before the hour and quickly had the fans on their feet with an elegant pirouette to elude two defenders near the right-hand corner flag.
Their tails up, PSG won a penalty when David Ducourtioux was penalised for handling Nene's cross and Nene converted the spot-kick himself, slamming the ball into the bottom-right corner to restore the hosts' lead. Cohade let PSG off the hook by wastefully lifting the ball over the bar in the 76th minute, as television cameras caught sporting director Leonardo puffing out his cheeks in a gesture that adequately expressed PSG's relief.
Montpellier led through Younes Belhanda's 31st-minute penalty when Geoffrey Dernis made it 2-0 seven minutes into the second half, exploiting space on the edge of the box to send a dipping left-footed shot beyond Benoit Costil. With Rennes wilting in the heat, substitute Souleymane Diawara killed the game off with a brace of strikes in the last 20 minutes that owed much to the laxity in the visiting defence.
Today's later kick-offs saw Sochaux win 2-1 at Nancy despite the absence of striker Modibo Maiga, while Marseille played out a goalless draw at home to Saint-Etienne.
Didier Deschamps' men edged the first half and came close to taking the lead when Loic Remy hit the post, but Les Verts also hit the woodwork after the break through Bakary Sako. Saint-Etienne were reduced to ten men for the final five minutes after Jean-Pascal Mignot was shown a second yellow card for a tackle on Alou Diarra.