Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 Saint-Etienne
1970 PSG Man Of The Match: Edinson Cavani
Edinson Cavani was out of this world last night. With Paris Saint-Germain needing a talisman with Zlatan Ibrahimovic absent, El Matador put on perhaps his best performance in a Parisien shirt.
Bar the opening quarter of the game where both teams were on tenterhooks, PSG took the impetus after Cavani gave us the lead on 25 minutes. It was beautifully taken as he brought the ball down in the penalty area before elegantly rounding Stephane Ruffier to tap home. As good as Cavani’s technical ability was in terms of scoring the goal, special praise must also go to the three young guns Adrien Rabiot, Lucas Digne and Marco Verratti who orchestrated the move. Rabiot is ever improving with each game he plays. The young Frenchman played a delightful ball out to the left for Digne who used his composure to pass to Verratti and the Italian played a precision like assist for the in-form Uruguayan to score. The dinked ball from Marco was just as impressive as the goal itself.
From there on in, it was all PSG. The football was fluid, the defence was repelling ASSE with ease. Lucas Moura was absolutely superb for the 70 minutes where he was on the pitch. The Brazilian had Les Verts running scared at times as he picked the ball up before showing an intent to run at their defence. He went close with a couple of chances but the fans in the Parc des Princes were on the edge of their seats each time he picked up possession. Whilst Ezequiel Lavezzi was largely ineffective, Moura excelled. He stands a superb chance to start against Lille at the weekend alongside Cavani and Ibra.
Back to Cavani, the thing that has impressed me since he arrived from Naples is his endeavour. He has been played out on the left-hand side and has not once aired any displeasure. Everybody will agree that he is most effective through the middle but his goal tally will say otherwise. He has netted 18 goals in all competitions, with 13 coming in his last 12. That is a staggering return when you consider how many goals Ibra has netted as well.
Whenever Ibra has been missing, the €60m man has always reverted to the central striking role. His performance last night was possibly his best in the navy blue. He was everywhere, closing players down, looking to make tackles. The biggest indication of his influence was when he found himself on the edge of the Parisien penalty area and making a sliding tackle. The fans loved it.
When former striker Mevlut Erding netted Saint-Etienne’s equaliser to take us into extra-time, the sceptics may have feared the worst. After all Christophe Galtier’s men knocked us out on penalties in this competition last season. But Cavani was the saviour as he netted in the 119th minute. Verratti, spectacular yet again, showed his ever growing maturity to dink the ball to an unmarked Jeremy Menez to his right and the Frenchman equalled that with a telling ball towards the back stick for Edi to get the winner. Minds prevailed in that move, it could have been easy for someone to fluff their lines considering penalties was moments away but you could sense in the last five minutes that PSG wanted to end it. ASSE may have been content with penalties but we certainly were not.
Literally seconds after Cavani scored, the game was brought to an end. The Uruguayan was embraced by his peers and rightfully so. He is without question an indispensable player to the team. All that money that was invested him raised a few eyebrows but you cannot knock his record, ability or attitude. He was marvellous last night, his best yet.