UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 APOEL Nicosia
1970 PSG Man Of The Match: Lucas Moura
For the third year on the trot, Paris Saint-Germain have booked their ticket to the knockout-stage of the UEFA Champions League. The 1-0 victory over APOEL last night, in conjunction with Barcelona’s 2-0 victory in Amsterdam ensured that both teams progress.
Before the game it was debated as to who would fill the void left by Marco Verratti who was ruled out through injury. Javier Pastore it was who continued in the midfield trio as he did at the weekend against FC Lorient. In defence, David Luiz returned to partner Thiago Silva.
We could not have got off to a better start as Edinson Cavani opened the scoring in just under a minute (56 seconds to be exact – the club’s fastest Champions League goal). Pastore, who was mesmeric yet again, played a ball out wide to Gregory Van der Wiel who whipped it in for ‘El Matador’ to control superbly before firing on the half volley which glanced off goalkeeper Urko Pardo and then the post.
You would have thought the floodgates would open after that but it was not the case. The Cypriots should have even drew level but Nuno Morais missed an absolute sitter from three yards out, blazing over the bar after Salvatore Sirigu (who made his 150th appearance for the club) parried an initial header back into the mire.
Not too long after that, Cavani hit the post with a brave diving header to meet a delicious ball in from Lucas. Ezequiel Lavezzi and Pastore’s lack of communication resulted in ‘Pocho’ taking the ball away from his compatriot on the rebound as he looked set to smash it into the net.
Cavani had at least half a dozen chances to increase the lead but fluffed his lines on all of them. He could quite easily have had a hat-trick. Nevertheless, it is four goals in his last four games. He just needs to be more clinical but he will be disappointed not to have got a couple more goals last night.
Lucas for me was man of the match. The little Brazilian was absolutely superb. Everything went through him. Pace, power and the ability to weave into little pockets of space with ease. The Parc des Princes faithful rose to their feet when he came off for Yohan Cabaye in the second-half with a deserved standing ovation.
It was an easy victory in the end despite the marginal scoreline. APOEL offered no threat in attack but credit to them, they were well disciplined in a tactical sense. PSG should have wrapped the game up with at least one or two more goals but Pardo in between the sticks was in tip top form.
Qualification is secured with two games to spare. We will now be vying it out with Barca for that all-important top spot. But that can wait for the time being. There is a small matter of a ‘classique’ this Sunday in the biggest game of the domestic season so far.
Excited? You bet!