Folarin Balogun's late equalizer denied Paris Saint-Germain the win and kept Stade de Reims' impressive 14-game unbeaten run going on Sunday in a 1-1 draw. Neymar had looked set to reopen a five-point gap on RC Lens at the Ligue 1 summit for the 10-man hosts but U.S. men's national team-eligible Balogun had other ideas and snatched the draw at the death.
It was no less than deserved for Reims, who played some superb stuff at Parc des Princes and out-shot PSG in the first half but were unable to get the goal their enterprise merited at 11 vs. 11. In fact, it looked like they would leave empty-handed when Neymar opened the scoring from a Juan Bernat assist against the run of play early in the second half, and Balogun then had a Reims penalty overturned via VAR due to his being offside.
Marco Verratti's foul on Junya Ito was also spotted through the VAR check which earned the Italy international a red card just 15 minutes into his return from injury after coming on as a substitute. Achraf Hakimi also had a goal disallowed as Verratti's ejection actually sparked a bit of life into the hosts, who had been sluggish in attack as Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe failed to fire after Monday's Coupe de France blowout win over Pays de Cassel.
Just as it looked as if PSG would seal three flattering points, though, Balogun salvaged a draw for Reims from a Kamory Doumbia assist to keep them unbeaten and add another feather to Will Still's cap. The hotshot showed great composure to round Gianluigi Donnarumma before finishing clinically to spark wild celebrations on the away bench.
¡GOOOL DEL REIMS! 🔥— beIN SPORTS Español (@ESbeINSPORTS) January 29, 2023
Florian Balogun sorprende a los parisinos e iguala el partido en el último suspiro 💥#Ligue1 🇫🇷 #PSGSDR pic.twitter.com/3jjIxUnXHN
"We offered interesting things whether it was with or without the ball," Still said. "There was a team on the field and it was a team that was ready, proud, and unafraid of playing here at Parc des Princes. We did not have any complex. The goal we conceded was annoying, but it is also part of the game. We held on, did not lose hope, and we were rewarded at the end.
"It is hard against 10 men as the scenario changes. You lose your bearings and we had 10,15, or 20 minutes of just floating as we knew that PSG's greatest danger came in transition. We wanted to lure them into a trap as we knew how fast Mbappe can be. After the red, we had to adapt and start to push. After the game, I told the players that it was good to take a point, but that it will be useless if we do not beat Lorient."
Balogun is on loan from Arsenal and has been the subject of much speculation regarding his international future, which could lie with the USMNT given that he was born in New York City back in 2001. This was the 21-year-old's 11th goal of the Ligue 1 season and the Gunners could look to bring him back to Emirates Stadium for next season if he keeps up his prolific form in France for the remainder of this campaign.
"This is a special night for me," he said after the game. "I paid attention to all of the details, I saw Donnarumma coming off of his line, and I saw it was easier to take the ball around him. My celebration was in tribute to Thierry Henry. We stayed solid against a better team. Although we do not have any game-changing substitutes, the coach told us that we could get the result by keeping the same mentality. It is easier with him as coach as he speaks English."
95 - The goal scored by Reims’ forward Folarin Bolagun after 95 minutes and 30 seconds is the latest one conceded by Paris in Ligue 1 since Opta began to collect this data (2006-07). Buzzer. #PSGSDR pic.twitter.com/AXiogqqXnw— OptaJean (@OptaJean) January 29, 2023
For PSG, it was another worrying display from a team that has not looked or seemed right since the FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar which disrupted an unbeaten start to the season. The UEFA Champions League is set to return this coming month and Mbappe, Messi and Neymar are still below-par despite a four-point lead in Ligue 1 which was of no consolation to Galtier.
"Our first half was soporific," said the French tactician post-game. "We had no rhythm, no intensity -- we were quickly cut in two. I went for two lines of four as we saw that we were in great difficulty. We quickly gave up our defense in the face of a team that is now unbeaten in 14 games. We are not happy.
"Our first half was insufficient and we were fortunate to score so quickly in the second half. There was also being down to 10 men, but overall we cannot be satisfied. We must get back to winning ways and show more togetherness. We had the ball at our feet with 30 seconds left. We must keep working, but many players are also not at their level. I am also responsible."
Reims' late equalizer came after nearly six minutes of time added on which is latest goal PSG have conceded in Ligue 1 since at least 2006-07. Les Parisiens have now conceded in six of their last seven Championnat outings which is arguably the most troubling statistic of the lot and explains why the club are so keen to get Inter Milan's Milan Skriniar in now with games against Montpellier HSC and Toulouse FC coming up this next week.