PARIS (AP) — League leader Paris Saint-Germain blew a 2-0 lead and its stars blew their tempers with the referee in a 2-2 draw away to fourth-place Saint-Etienne in the French league on Sunday.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored one goal and set up the other and still had enough energy left to berate referee Antony Gautier after the final whistle, standing inches from his face and saying "you're a joke." Moments after an altercation with Saint-Etienne striker Branda, an angry-looking David Beckham jogged over and also had a word with Gautier, who had failed to spot Brandao's stamp on center back Thiago Silva's shin in the buildup to Saint-Etienne's equalizer.
"We make mistakes. So does the referee," Ibrahimovic said. Ibrahimovic set up the first goal for Javier Pastore and netted his 25th league goal of the campaign with a twice-taken penalty to put PSG 2-0 up inside 20 minutes. But sloppy defending let PSG down as center half Alex scored an own goal before right back Francois Clerc equalized with a spectacular curling shot in the 72nd.
"Our second half was very good and we got our reward by equalizing. We could have scored a third but you have to remember that we fought back from 2-0 down and with a lot of style," Saint-Etienne coach Christophe Galtier said. "The first goal was a gift and you just can't do that against an opponent like that."
With second-place Lyon losing 4-1 at Bastia on Saturday, a win would have moved PSG seven points clear at the top, but instead the lead is five points with nine matches remaining. "Both teams played very good football. But we're really disappointed with what happened, because I think we could have won tonight," PSG goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu said.
PSG has lost two and drawn one of its past three league games but has been strong at home since the start of the year. "The turning point was the goal we conceded at the end of the first half. If we had been 2-0 up halftime the second half would have been easier. Saint-Etienne played with a lot of intensity," PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti said. "It's a good result at this stage of the season. Five points is a good lead for us. The title's not over, there are a lot of games left."
Beckham made his first league start for PSG and was involved in a heated row with Brandao after the game, as both players pushed and shoved each other. Midfielder Blaise Matuidi's pass helped set up the first goal in the ninth minute. Matuidi found space in midfield and played the ball out wide to Ibrahimovic, who flicked it superbly into the path of Pastore. Center half Moustapha Sall came across to cover and could have cleared the ball, but hesitated and Pastore took it off him before chipping goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier.
Ruffier conceded the penalty in the 19th when he rushed off his line and dived at the feet of Ezequiel Lavezzi, who had pushed the ball too far ahead and would have struggled to get to it. Ruffier had no need to rush off his line, and Lavezzi left a trailing leg and went to ground easily. Sall was perhaps lucky to escape with only a yellow card as he gave Gautier a shove.
Ibrahimovic stepped up and slammed the spot kick into the top left corner, but Gautier ordered it to be retaken. It made no difference to Ibrahimovic as he stroked a superb Panenka over Ruffier, who had guessed the wrong way for this 25th league goal of the season.
It seemed to thrill the imposing Swede that he was barracked by Saint-Etienne fans before the kick and he smiled broadly at them. Saint-Etienne got right back in the game when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang whipped over a cross from the right, Silva had his back to the ball and Alex turned it into his own net under pressure from Brandao. Saint-Etienne attacked again down the right and Clerc's cross was almost fumbled into his own net by Sirigu.
The home side started the second half brightly with PSG on the back foot for the first 15 minutes and Sirigu then made a sharp save at his near post to keep out Aubameyang's snapshot, and Ibrahimovic wasted a great chance to make it 3-1 when he blasted wide.
Roared on by the passionate Geoffroy-Guichard crowd, Saint-Etienne equalized when Clerc curled the ball with the outside of his right boot into the opposite corner from 15 meters. Beckham tried his luck with two late free kicks but neither hit the target, and after the second attempt he seemed irritated with the referee, spinning round and muttering at Gautier.
Meanwhile, Nancy kept alive its slim chances of avoiding relegation by beating fifth-place Nice 1-0 at home, while Toulouse and Bordeaux drew 0-0.