Ibrahimovic joins 100 club, helps PSG past Olympiakos

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Zlatan Ibrahimovic opened the scoring for Paris Saint-Germain against Olympiakos.AssociatedZlatan Ibrahimovic opened the scoring for Paris Saint-Germain against Olympiakos.

Paris Saint-Germain's narrow 2-1 win over Olympiakos at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday guaranteed their safe passage into the Champions League's last 16 and secured top spot in Group C at the same time. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, on his 100th appearance in the competition, opened the scoring inside of 10 minutes before Edinson Cavani's last-minute winner cancelled out a Kostas Manolas equaliser.

The victory extends PSG's unbeaten run in all competitions to 35 matches, but sets a new club record of 13 Champions League games without defeat. However, the 2-1 victory was not a comfortable one as Laurent Blanc's side had to play the second 45 minutes with 10 men after Marco Verratti was sent off. The Italian international, booked in the first half, saw red less than 60 seconds after the restart to force the hosts into some unwanted tactical changes.

However, despite the one-man disadvantage looking as if it had cost the French champions when Manolas scrambled in a highly fortuitous 80th-minute equaliser, Cavani ensured PSG's smooth passage by making it 2-1 in the dying moments. Once again it was not the Parisians at their brilliant best, but they were good enough to overcome their second-placed visitors to secure top spot.

Ibrahimovic rose to the occasion of his centenary appearance with the opening goal and once again led the way for his teammates. Only six other current players can say they have made 100 Champions League appearances and the strike was the Swede's 39th in the competition overall. Gregory van der Wiel has provided half of Ibrahimovic's eight goals in this year's edition, and the pair's growing understanding continues to bring PSG plenty of joy. No PSG player has scored more goals in a Champions League campaign than Ibrahimovic after his effort surpassed George Weah's seven from 1994-95.

But the night was not all about the talismanic striker; winning goal scorer Cavani also put in a performance worthy of note. Starting once again on the right of the front three, El Matador fared admirably and worked extremely hard to win the ball and get involved when Ibrahimovic was on the pitch. He scored once the Swede had been substituted, but on a difficult night for PSG, the Uruguayan made the crucial difference that guarantees top spot and a place in the next round.

While the result was positive though, a number of happenings will have bothered Blanc. Firstly, despite insisting after the match that he "does not blame" Verratti for his red card, the 21-year-old's foolish dismissal less than one minute into the second half will require his attention. A lack of discipline was the Italian international's major drawback from last season and once again the diminutive midfielder failed to control his temper, picking up two pointless yellow cards.

Le President will no doubt want to avoid being too harsh on the Azzurri sensation who has enjoyed an excellent start to the campaign, but will be keen to ensure that it does not happen again in a game where the stakes are higher. Verratti is only the fifth PSG player to ever see red in the Champions League and Blanc must make sure that the youngster's bad habit of picking up cards continues to be curbed. However, the dismissal should serve as a reminder to the Italian not to take his position within the team for granted, and his absence will clear a path for the talented Adrien Rabiot to start the final group match against Benfica in Portugal.

The performance of the defence also posed a bit of a concern ahead of knockout stages. Kostas Mitroglou, although he didn't score, caused PSG plenty of problems at the back and got in behind Thiago Silva and Alex time and again. As a result, it made Blanc's side look short of pace and vulnerable at times, something that any future opponent of the French champions will pick up on. One of Blanc's tactical gambles backfired too; his switching of Marquinhos for Ibrahimovic immediately led to a goal and, although the Brazilian was involved in Cavani's late winner, the change could have proved costly.

The victory secures PSG's progress though and, as Blanc told the press after the match, the team have "achieved what they set out to do." Rotation can now take place when the team travels to Portugal to face Benfica, enabling a more balanced team selection against Saint-Etienne in the Coupe de la Ligue the week after that Champions League clash. But Blanc and his side should heed the warnings from the performance that was far from flawless, despite garnering the desired result.


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