Ibrahimovic treble leads shaky PSG past Toulouse

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Zlatan IbrahimovicGettyImagesZlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates his goals for PSG.

Paris Saint-Germain eventually managed to overcome a spirited Toulouse side 4-2 at the Stade Municipal on Sunday, retaining their five-point lead at the top of Ligue 1 despite not being at their best. Coming off the back of a thumping 4-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League, Laurent Blanc’s side hit four for a second consecutive match and Zlatan Ibrahimovic was once again central to the victory.

The Swede scored his second league hat-trick of the season, with Ezequiel Lavezzi adding another to ensure that a Wissam Ben Yedder double was not enough for the hosts. However, the final score of 4-2 could have ben greater if both sides had taken key chances during the game. As it was, PSG were clinical enough of the day -- although two of Ibrahimovic’s three were penalties -- and the capital club can now turn their attention to Le Classique next weekend without worrying that AS Monaco have closed the gap on them at the top.

Blanc went with the same starting XI that swept Leverkusen aside earlier in the week, possibly forced by Monaco’s dramatic late win over Stade de Reims on Friday, and the team’s weariness was evident early in the first half. Ibrahimovic did not have to expend much energy though to put PSG 1-0 up, stroking home from the penalty spot after Uros Spajic had clumsily fouled Lavezzi. The goal came against the run of play, with Toulouse in the ascendency until that point, but it gave the defending champions the kick-start that they needed.

Ibrahimovic netted again from the spot late on after his drilled free-kick effort had been handled by Issiaga Sylla, but not before he had headed in a brilliant Yohan Cabaye free-kick. Technically, the Swede’s second penalty should count as a goal from open play as Zacharie Boucher clawed out the talismanic striker’s impudent 'panenka' effort, but the 32-year-old was on hand to stab home the rebound to complete the scoring.

Lavezzi’s goal to put PSG 2-1 up after 56 minutes was a more attractive strike, rifling in brilliantly on the turn after a subdued start to the second half by Blanc’s side. The Argentine’s goal completes an impressive run of matches for El Pocho; scoring and providing an assist against Valenciennes, winning the penalty for the Parisians’ second goal away at Leverkusen and now a fifth goal of the season against Toulouse.

One other positive note for PSG was another encouraging substitute appearance from Cabaye. The French international came on to score against Leverkusen in midweek, but the 28-year-old turned provider this time with a sublime ball in from a free-kick that Ibrahimovic headed home, just Cabaye’s second touch of the game. Had Monaco dropped points, it is likely that Blanc would have fielded the former Newcastle United man from the start.

PSG's on loan midfielder Clement Chantome also impressed for Toulouse before he was substituted after 82 minutes, but he did not show enough to suggest that he will be able to impose himself on the side when he returns to the capital at the end of the season.

However, PSG’s victory owed as much to luck as anything else on the day, although Salvatore Sirigu did make some excellent saves. Not only did Martin Braithwaite suffer a soul-destroying first half miss prior to Ibrahimovic’s opening goal, Thiago Motta was lucky not to celebrate his new one-year contract extension with a red card. The Italian international should have picked up a second booking for a poorly-timed challenge in the second half, but referee Nicolas Rainville opted to keep his cards in his pocket.

Questions will also be asked of the defence, particularly Grgeory van der Wiel on Ben Yedder’s second goal. While his first was a stunning volleyed finish from an Etienne Didot cross, he profited from a defensive mix-up to bag his second, with van der Wiel and Motta both contributing. Blanc’s players suffered at times in the south western France, with the Dutchman’s error in judgement symptomatic of a team that was not fully concentrated after their midweek exertions. The pressure applied on the side by title rivals Monaco also looks as if it is starting to tell, with Blanc opting to go virtually full-strength when he could have easily rotated a number of players.

In the end though, PSG did enough. The champions were able to see off a motivated home side and score four goals at the Stade Municipal for the second consecutive season. The result re-establishes a five-point lead over Monaco and the continental hangover was ultimately avoided, even if it was evident for a period. Putting the pressure back on Les Monegasques ahead of their tough trip to face AS Saint-Etienne next week will aid PSG’s preparation for Le Classique against Olympique de Marseille next Sunday.

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