Ibrahimovic genius inspires PSG to rout of Anderlecht

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored his first Champions League hat-trick as Paris Saint-Germain romped to a 5-0 victory over RSC Anderlecht in the Champions League on Wednesday. The talismanic Swede finished with four goals, three of which he scored inside 36 minutes, including a thumping effort to complete his treble.

Edinson Cavani added another to Ibra's four, joining his teammate on the PSG score sheet for the first time when both have been on the pitch together. The win gives Laurent Blanc's side nine points from a possible nine and fires them to the top of group C where they already find themselves five points clear of Olympiakos and SL Benfica. Picking up where they left off against the Portuguese side last time out, PSG thoroughly dominated proceedings, but once again Ibrahimovic ran the show.

- Anderlecht 0-5 Paris Saint-Germain

Instrumental in the 3-0 victory over Benfica, the 32-year-old raised his game further at the Constant Vanden Stock and bettered himself, scoring a second stunning strike in a week, but the 5-0 scoreline did not flatter the defending Ligue 1 champions and their rampant striker. Anderlecht were pummeled into submission by an insatiable Ibrahimovic who is now showing signs that he is ready for a final assault on the Champions League title.

The result makes PSG genuine title contenders, if they were not before. But it is also clear that if the side from the French capital are to better last season's quarter-final showing, last year's top scorer is going to be the main protagonist. Ibrahimovic now appears primed for success and his recent form has shown a frightening acceleration in pace from what was an uncharacteristically slow start to the season.

Many assumed that turning 32 this year was the beginning of the end for the former AC Milan man. Not at all. If anything, Ibra is getting even better. It is as if the summer signing of Cavani was not only done with one eye on replacing the Swede in the future, but also to ensure that last season's impeccably high standards do not drop.

Those high standards are higher than ever now following a five-day spell in which he has scored outrageous goals that verge on fantasy.

Ibrahimovic's first goal on 17 minutes was similar to PSG's opener against Benfica at the Parc des Princes earlier this month. The excellent Gregory van der Wiel whipped in a delightful low cross, after being fed by Cavani, and Ibrahimovic was there to tap home. The Dutchman was central to the second goal too; playing in another low cross but this time the Swede scored with a clever flick finish.

The third is the one that everybody will be talking about though, a powerful drive from long range that no goalkeeper in world football would have been capable of stopping. The shot clocked an impressive 100 kilometres an hour and the strike completed Ibrahimovic's first ever Champions League treble in the space of 19 minutes. He went on to score again in the second half, a brilliant angled finish after setting himself up, but by half time he had already earned a standing ovation from the awestruck Anderlecht fans.

With such a massive winning margin there are many positives to the result, but it is almost impossible to focus on anything other than Ibrahimovic's performance given his superior quality. Cavani finally got himself on the same score sheet as his teammate but it proved trivial as Ibracadabra chased a record-equalling fifth goal in a Champions League match. Blaise Matuidi did well to recover the ball before squaring for Cavani to finish easily, but it was one of few contributions from the South American.

Although it was not entirely noticeable during the performance -- such was the quality of PSG's one-man show -- the Ibrahimovic-Cavani partnership missed a chance for some vital development.

Blanc's winning league formula of playing one after the other is not a viable long-term option and the Uruguayan can have few complaints playing second fiddle to the Swede on this sort of form. However, Blanc and PSG cannot fall back into the same old habits of relying on Ibrahimovic's individual genius to win matches.

Last season PSG did well to reach the quarterfinals and arguably overachieved on their return to European football's top table following an eight-year absence. There was no Cavani then and Ibrahimovic was the main focal point of the team. It is perhaps the freedom that the signing of El Matador has brought to last season's star man that has enabled him to flourish, now free of the burden of being the team's sole goal threat.

Ibrahimovic's virtuoso performance aside though, it was another excellent night for Blanc and PSG.

Defensively the team was impressive, although Alex's second half substitution will be a slight cause for concern. Van der Wiel in particular caught the eye and demonstrated the tremendous difference between himself and Christophe Jallet who started Saturday's clash with Bastia. The midfield was also back to its dominant best following the returns of Marco Verratti and Thiago Motta.

AS Saint-Etienne are next up for PSG on Sunday and Blanc will be hoping that Ibrahimovic continues his superlative recent form. There is the danger that following such a mammoth victory the team will get complacent on their return to domestic action. Les Verts have been PSG's bogey side over the past few seasons so Blanc may have to rub the Genie Zlatan's lamp for some inspiration to keep this juggernaut rolling.

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