PARIS — Paris Saint-Germain striker Edinson Cavani is in prolific scoring form these days and hardly needs any help from his opponents.
But Nancy’s clumsy defense set up his goal in a gritty 2-1 away win in the French league on Saturday that keeps second-placed PSG four points behind surprise leader Nice.
It was a poor performance from defending champion PSG, which was dominated in midfield by two veterans playing for the last-placed side.
But Nancy’s defense was in charitable mood and PSG was already leading 1-0 when Cavani struck in the 18th minute.
Center back Michael Chretien casually headed an intended back pass straight into his path, and Cavani sprinted through before calmly lobbing goalkeeper Guy N’Dy Assembe for his 12th goal in 10 games this season.
Cavani will never enjoy the popularity of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who joined Manchester United after becoming the French club’s all-time leading scorer in just four seasons. But the Uruguay forward is winning fans over with goals, and has 16 in 14 matches so far this season for club and country.
With a combined age of 70, Nancy’s midfielders Alou Diarra and Benoit Pedretti — both former France internationals — showed their teammates how to play.
Pedretti’s precision free-kick from the right was met with a powerful header from Diarra — who played in the World Cup final for France against Italy 10 years ago — as Nancy replied in the 55th.
But the damage was already done, which Nancy will regret as PSG looked vulnerable.
“We started well but then played with less rhythm and tempo. In the second half it became even more difficult,” PSG midfielder Marco Verratti said. “We need to keep working hard because we’re not at 100 percent yet.”
PSG’s first goal came in the 13th minute as Brazilian winger Lucas scored in bizarre fashion.
Lucas took a free-kick way out on the left and the curling ball eluded Cavani and midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak as they lunged for it — and then bounced in front of N’Dy Assembe, who stood still as the ball rolled in.
PSG goalkeeper Alphonse Areola started the move for the second goal, launching a long clearance that Chretien naively nodded back without anticipating Cavani’s presence.
“We paid for our poor start to the game. They were errors of concentration,” Diarra said. “It’s a shame because we reacted well.”
PSG’s two defeats this season have been away to Toulouse and third-placed Monaco. They played each other Friday, with Toulouse winning 3-1 to move up to fourth. Also Friday, Nice beat Lyon 2-0.
Since scoring Portugal’s winner in extra time against France in the European Championship final back in July, striker Eder has struggled to find the net for Lille.
He has only one goal in nine games this season — and that was from the penalty spot — after again drawing a blank in a 1-0 defeat away to Brittany-based side Guingamp. Jimmy Briand unselfishly set up strike partner Sloan Privat for the only goal as Guingamp moved up to fifth.
Angers climbed up to eighth spot with a 2-1 win at Bastia, thanks to two goals from striker Famara Diedhiou, while forward Yacine Bammou’s first goal of the season helped mid-table Nantes to a 2-1 win at Lorient.
After a difficult start to the season Montpellier is finding form, thanks in large part to Casimir Ninga. The Chad striker’s fifth goal in two games largely contributed to a 3-2 home win against Normandy side Caen that pushed Montpellier up to 14th.
On Sunday, Rennes takes on Bordeaux; Saint-Etienne faces Dijon; and Metz travels to Marseille.