PSG cruise past Zagreb in third gear

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates with Javier Pastore after opening the scoring against Dinamo ZagrebGettyImagesZlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates with Javier Pastore after opening the scoring against Dinamo Zagreb

There were plenty of positives for Carlo Ancelotti to take in Paris Saint-Germain's 0-2 Champions League Group A win against Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia. The midfield duo of Blaise Matuidi and Marco Verratti were particularly dominant as PSG cruised to victory without ever really getting out of second gear. Ancelotti elected to make a host of changes and for the most part they paid off, with the Italian able to indulge in some early substitutions to keep his side fresh.

As expected, Alex came in for the injured Mamadou Sakho and Gregory Van der Wiel was taken out in favour of Christophe Jallet in defence. Mathieu Bodmer started his first game in over a month after recovering from injury, his last appearance came against Bastia over a month ago. Given Carletto's recent selection woes in midfield his return was a huge boost. Javier Pastore was restored to the XI, but Kevin Gameiro had to make do with place on the bench as Jeremy Menez came back into the starting line-up to partner Zlatan Ibrahimovic in attack.

- Zlatan sets PSG on way to victory

The biggest positive of the evening was the impressive performances from midfield duo Verratti and Matuidi as the pair anchored PSG's attacking 4-3-2-1 formation to superb effect. The pairing who have been so effect in Ligue 1 thus far, took the pressure off of Bodmer, who was allowed a small amount of freedom to stray from the solid three-man midfield that Ancelotti favours. For a player so beset by injuries since the turn of the year, Bodmer had a solid game and looks like he will give the Italian more attacking emphasis from the base of the midfield once fully fit.

Pastore, Menez and Ibrahimovic also looked good in spells although the Swede at times appeared jaded. Perhaps a product of his prolific recent exploits domestically and continentally for club and country, he looked like a player limiting himself to conserve his energy. If that then was the towering striker at only 50% though, what a percentage that is. His link-up play with his back-up pairing of Menez and Pastore was excellent in spells, with the Frenchman in particular, and it was that pairing that provided the first goal.

'Ibra' started the move on the left before passing to Menez, the Frenchman's direct run and acute cut-back was perfectly placed into the stride of the Swede who slid home the finish from close range on 33 minutes.

Zagreb were limited to shots from range throughout the match but PSG's build-up play can be accused of over-intricacy at times. Yes they made it count when it mattered, but on a number of occasions the team were trying to walk the ball in. Granted it is the sign of a confident side and at times there is a swagger about PSG that has not been present since the 'Golden Years.'

The attacking trident did punish their hosts again though on the stroke of half-time. PSG were enjoying acres of space behind the Zagreb backline at this point, with Menez profiting when the midfield won the ball and quickly pushed into attack. The Frenchman darting in from left to nutmeg Ivan Kelava with a low finish.

The second half was a muted affair with the game already won. Zoumana Camara came on for Alex at half-time, and the side made a slower start to the second half, understandable given the two-goal lead. Momo Sissoko then replaced Bodmer on the hour as Ancelotti decided he could afford to make the changes.

Guillaume Hoarau was also given a late run-out and looked every bit the player who'd only played ten minutes so far this season. He failed to take his chances with a poor missed header immediately after entering the field and then a later disallowed goal summing up his night and indeed his season so far. 0-2 it finished.

All in all a satisfactory evening for Carlo Ancelotti; a win without his team needing to exert too much energy ahead of this weekend's trip to Nancy and a result that sets them up well for the return tie in Paris in a fortnight. Les Parisiens are second in the table with six points and trail Porto by three but lead Kiev by the same margin. The clash with Porto could become a virtual group decider. For now though three precious points, a return to form and another confidence boost ahead of a difficult domestic fixture at the weekend.

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