Zlatan-less PSG Cruise Past Toulouse

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

It was slick, efficient and near brilliant at times. If Paris Saint-Germain played like this every time Zlatan Ibrahimovic missed a game, then he’d likely not get back into the team after this result. Carlo Ancelotti’s side cruised past Toulouse 3-1 Wednesday at the Parc des Princes to reach the last 16 of the Coupe de France with an impressive attacking display similar to those demonstrated prior to the winter break. Goals from Kevin Gameiro, Javier Pastore and Ezequiel Lavezzi did the damage and at times PSG played some exquisite football.

Loic Venance/AFP/Getty ImagesEzequiel Lavezzi put the finishing touch on a classy PSG win, scoring their final goal in the 66th minute.

The Italian named a reshuffled team in the absence of Ibrahimovic, Alex and the Thiagos (Silva and Motta). Sylvain Armand partnered Mamadou Sakho at the back with Gregory van der Wiel coming in at right back. Blaise Matuidi moved to the left in order to accommodate Clement Chantome and Marco Verratti without starting with a central midfield trio, while Gameiro had a hance to impress starting up front in Ibra's absence.

The most impressive performance though came from the bench. Jeremy Menez, on as a half-time substitute for Gameiro, swung the game in PSG’s favour providing both goals in the second half. His cameo was the undoubted positive along with the improving chemistry between the midfield and attack. The Frenchman is thus proving his importance to Ancelotti’s side considering that he was the first player to make way for Lucas Moura in the starting lineup at the start of the year.

Matuidi won the ball in midfield inside of eight minutes, and Lavezzi’s vision and superb weighted pass behind the visitors’ defence provided an easy chance for Gameiro to finish. One of Menez's first contributions was to make an interception, and play it into the path of Pastore, who drilled it home in the 49th minute having cut in from the left.

The best was yet to come, though. About 19 minutes later, Menez made a bursting run before flicking a pinpoint pass into Lavezzi’s path to finish with a cute chip.

The flowing football in that third goal was a taste of the kind of sublime football PSG fans can come to expect the project to produce given a little more time on the pitch. It could have been more however. Mamadou Sakho’s first-half header crashed against the woodwork and could easily have gone in on another day and Maxwell’s penalty appeal shortly before could also have been awarded. The link-up between Menez, Lavezzi and Pastore though was brilliant in spells and contributed massively to an improved performance that oozed authority.

Arguably the only blemish on an otherwise successful evening was the concession of a sloppy equaliser. Franck Tabanou beat right back Gregory van der Wiel in the air far too easily to head home, although the cross was of the highest quality. Despite looking good going forward, the Dutchman still lacks the necessary sharpness when defending.

That said, it is nitpicking an otherwise composed and commanding performance. The verve and swagger displayed by the capital club at times was a pleasure to behold and to see Menez, Lavezzi and Pastore working in such tandem is particularly encouraging. PSG now need to take that form into Sunday’s clash with Lille when Ibra will be back, and prove that its not only when the cat is away that the mice will play.

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