Ibrahimovic inspires PSG over Brest in Coupe

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty ImagesZlatan Ibrahimovic had a first half hat trick vs. Brest.

Originally scheduled to meet last Sunday, it was third time lucky for Paris Saint-Germain as they beat Stade Brestois 29 5-2 in their Coupe de France round of 64 clash after two cancellations. Laurent Blanc's men took out their frustration on their hosts with an emphatic win at the Stade Francis-Le Ble, thanks to a first-half hat trick by Zlatan Ibrahimovic and a goal apiece from Thiago Motta and Ezequiel Lavezzi.

Despite the less-than-ideal conditions in Brittany, the defending Ligue 1 champions made light work of their second-tier opponent and were two goals up inside of the first 15 minutes. Brest did manage to pull two goals back eventually, but PSG had netted their fifth just seconds after the restart following a first-half blitz. In all honesty it could have been worse than 5-2 for Alex Dupont's players though, as the side from the capital rarely needed to get out of second gear and still looked commanding.

The pick of the seven-goal thriller was of course Ibrahimovic's immense performance. The Swede bagged a hat trick inside of the first 45 minutes, prompting some of those home fans who actually turned up to leave the stadium early.

But it was not only his goals that made the difference for PSG on the night. Blanc's men had actually made a shaky start to the game despite the impressive 5-2 final score. Until Ibrahimovic netted his first, a move that he started with a brilliant pass to Maxwell on the left and executed with an emphatic but unorthodox side of the foot finish, the Swede had made no meaningful contribution and his teammates looked as if they were still on holiday.

Ibra settled their nerves with his first, adding two more relatively simple goals to his tally before the end of the half. The second was an excellent poked finish from close range thanks to a pinpoint Motta free kick, before a neat dinked finish following an Edinson Cavani pass for his third and PSG's fourth of the night. As if that weren't enough, just 32 seconds into the second period he laid a perfectly weighted pass into the path of Lavezzi who gobbled up the chance eagerly for only his third goal in all competitions this season.

While it would be easy to lavish all of the praise for the result on Ibrahimovic, one player contributed particularly well from defence but often goes without the credit he deserves. Brazilian left-back Maxwell has been an unsung part of PSG's success over the past two years and in western France, starting for the first time since returning from injury against Real Madrid in Doha, he put in an excellent performance.

Lucas Digne has impressed in recent weeks with some accomplished performances in the Selecao international's absence, but Maxwell reminded Blanc of his importance to the side with a typically buccaneering display that Parc des Princes fans have become accustomed to from the 32-year-old. It was Maxwell's cross that found Ibrahimovic for his first goal and his probing pass that freed Lavezzi to pass to Blaise Matuidi, whose cutback was turned in by Motta.

The Italian international was also in fine form once again, taking his goal well and providing an assist for Ibrahimovic's second with an expertly delivered free kick. Lavezzi impressed too, showing excellent composure to score a rare goal in the second half and also contributing towards Motta’s strike with the pass to Matuidi.

On another night, Cavani would have also gotten in on the action, but the Uruguayan international's second half header hit the post and he will have to content himself with having been provider for Ibrahimovic's third with a neat pass. El Matador looked wasteful against Real Madrid in Doha last week, but was livelier in Brittany despite not finding the net.

The result sees PSG start 2014 with a bang and the Ligue 1 leaders are still in contention for four potential pieces of silverware, which was not the case last year. Montpellier at home are next up in the Coupe de France round of 32, a pairing that pits France's two most recent champions against each another at the Parc des Princes.

More immediately though for PSG, they can finally focus on Saturday's trip to Corsica to face rock-bottom AC Ajaccio. The three-day delay wasted Blanc and his players' valuable time, which could have been spent focusing on the resumption of Ligue 1 duty this weekend and next Tuesday's tough Coupe de la Ligue quarterfinal clash away at Girondins de Bordeaux.

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