Toulouse 2-4 Paris Saint-Germain
1970 PSG Man Of The Match: Ezequiel Lavezzi
The beautiful weather in Toulouse yesterday was not exactly complemented by a barnstorming performance from Paris Saint-Germain. Nevertheless, we got all three points courtesy of a Zlatan Ibrahimovic hat-trick in a 4-2 win that restores that five point lead at the top of the table ahead of Monaco and marks a 10th consecutive win over Les Pitchouns.
As we know from last season, these are the sort of games you need to win in order to become champions. For the first time since December we had to compete in a domestic game following exploits in Europe. There were no lasting effects from the win in Germany yesterday but the performance was pretty flat for large parts. Laurent Blanc named an unchanged side which emphasised the trust he had in the group that produced that stunning result last Tuesday. You may have thought that the likes of Javier Pastore, Yohan Cabaye and maybe Jeremy Menez would have come into the fold to freshen things up but Monsieur Blanc thought otherwise.
The opening 25 minutes past by without any incident really. Both teams cancelled each other out. We were happy to just keep the ball but with no real impetus in the final third. TFC should have taken the lead after Serge Aurier hit the post and the ball subsequently fell to the feet of Martin Braithwaite from three yards out but he scuffed his shot into the hands of Salvatore Sirigu. It was a huge let off.
Moments after that, Les Parisiens won a penalty when Ezequiel Lavezzi was hacked down by Uro Spajic. Up stepped Zlatan to net his 50th league goal in 59 league games. Staggering! That was the seventh penalty he scored this season as well.
After that, we had chances to double the lead. Lucas Moura burst into the box but the ball got stuck under his feet at the vital moment. Blaise Matuidi rattled the post and Thiago Silva nearly turned in at the back post after Ibra fizzed a ball across the penalty area.
The goal of the day came on the stroke of half-time. Wissam Ben Yedder smashed home a volley to equalise and send the Municipal into raptures. The quality of the finish deserves acclaim but PSG will have been frustrated that no one was there to mark him.
After the break, the opening ten minutes were pretty much the same. Very little action around the final third but when PSG had their first shot it resulted in a goal. Lavezzi this time, who is showing a splendid run of form of late, swept the ball past Boucher with his left foot.
12 minutes later, Ibra got his brace. Yohan Cabaye, who came on for little Verratti, put in a peach of a ball from a set-piece which the number 10 headed home. That looked to put the game beyond the hosts but they came back again. Strangely Gregory Van der Wiel was running back to his own box with the ball, lost possession and Ben Yedder was able to slot home past Sirigu. He was offside but as the ball came of Thiago Motta, the goal was deemed eligible.
That made Blanc a little hot under the collar as the half wore on. Thankfully, the champions put the game to bed in the 89th minute. Issiaga Sylla handled in the penalty area via a freekick by Ibrahimovic. The Swede, amazingly, missed his penalty. Something we rarely see. He tried a cheeky dink down the middle which Boucher got his hand to but was unable to prevent the follow-up. Sportingly Ibra shook the hand of the young goalkeeper for the initial save.
It was a big win, considering Claudio Ranieri’s Monaco netted a stoppage time winner against Reims on Friday. The five point lead has been restored as we build-up to Le Classique next weekend against Marseille.