FC Nantes 1-2 Paris Saint-Germain
1970 PSG Man Of The Match: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Paris Saint-Germain are through to their first major cup final for three years. Zlatan Ibrahimovic netted a brace in last night’s Coupe de la Ligue semi-final with Nantes to book a visit to the Stade de France.
After playing FCN off the pitch for the majority of the first-half, Les Parisiens shot themselves in the foot by conceding a late equaliser that looked to have catastrophic consequences. Thankfully, Zlatan – as he has done so many times – dug us out of a hole that was our own doing in truth.
It really is baffling. For the first 30 odd minutes, we were outstanding. Nantes did not know what had hit them, especially after goalkeeper Remy Riou slipped whilst trying to clear the ball which landed straight in the path of Zlatan. Almost instinctive with his right foot, the Swede caught Riou off guard by hitting the ball first time, looping it over his head. You cannot underestimate the confidence and technique it takes to produce a goal like that. Only Ibra!
That occurred after just five minutes of the match. Les Canaris were succumbing to a tirade of Parisien pressure. They had a back five defending on the edge of their 18-yard box and had all 11 men in their own half as we kept possession, creating chances. This was a surprise to me. I felt before the game Michel Der Zakarian’s side would get right in our faces and make it uncomfortable for us. It was anything but! Perhaps the 5-0 drubbing they suffered at the Parc a few weeks back played a part in their mentality but they played right into PSG’s hands.
Having Marco Verratti back in midfield with Blaise Matuidi and Thiago Motta was good to see. All three played superbly in those 45 minutes. Little Marco even cleared off the line from a Papy Djilobodji header. Our vulnerability to defend set-pieces was demonstrated again and Nicolas Douchez did his colleagues no favours by going into no man’s land. Just as well Verratti was marking the post to clear with his chest.
That chance spurred on Nantes and they gathered belief. After the interval – for whatever reason – we rested on our laurels. After all that dominance in the first-half we were now embroiled in a battle with Nantes in blustery conditions as the rain lashed down. This was perfect for the men in yellow. It was a scrappy affair and they loved it. There was very little quality, too many fouls being committed as well as too many stoppages. Plenty of handbags were thrown from both sets of players. The fanatical Nantes support in the stands were keeping their players spirits high and much credit to them for getting back into the game.
Then they got the equaliser with less than 10 minutes remaining. Shambolic defending on our part as Olivier Veigneau was completely unmarked at the far post to lash home past Douchez. Gregory Van der Wiel got sucked in and managed to lose sight of Veigneau.
From a PSG point of view, you had to fear the worst at that point. FCN had momentum and we looked to be there for the taking. But, they did not have a Zlatan in their side. Lucas put in a beautiful ball into the box which Ibra crouched down to get his forehead on to give Riou no chance. Ibra was delirious as was his teammates knowing a place in a major cup final was moments away.
Thankfully we held on and the scenes at the end showed just how much it meant to Blanc, his staff and the players. They had to dig in deep at the end but the reward is a short trip across the capital for a cup final at the Stade de France on Saturday 19th April against either Olympique Lyonnais or Troyes.
Blanc is in his major final of his short PSG tenure thus far. If we can retain the league and hopefully be victorious at the Stade de France, it will have been a magical campaign. Still, a long way to go before we think about that but so far, so good! Allez PSG!