Nice win sees PSG edge toward title

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scores a penalty for PSG during the win against NiceGettyImagesZlatan Ibrahimovic scores a penalty for PSG during the win against Nice

Paris Saint-Germain's 3-0 victory over Nice sees them inch closer to their third ever Ligue 1 title, and it was no less than they deserved after a dominant performance. Carlo Ancelotti needed to see an improved display from his side after their humbling Coupe de France exit at struggling Evian on Wednesday and he got it within the opening 10 minutes at the Parc des Princes. Goals from Jeremy Menez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Clement Chantome secured the win and PSG were comfortable for the majority of the game, particularly after Nice goalkeeper David Ospina saw red.

- Ligue 1: PSG close in on title

Ibrahimovic and Menez in particular were a handful for Claude Puel's side and their link-up play could have seen the hosts up by more than a solitary goal at half-time. In fact, it should have done because Menez was handed a brilliant chance to double his tally by Ibrahimovic mid-way through the first half that he did not take. His opener was in part thanks to the Swede, but mainly created by the brilliance of Javier Pastore. The Argentine produced a sumptuous long pass that found Ibrahimovic who then clipped an equally impressive pass back into the path of Pastore, before the 23-year-old superbly controlled the ball and juggled away from Ospina to lay on the easiest of finishes for Menez.

Thiago Silva, as so often in recent weeks, was faultless once again at the heart of the defence. The capital club kept a 21st clean sheet in the league and the Brazilian was responsible for a disciplined showing at the back. Silva was again prepared to give his all regardless of the opponent, something that cannot be said of every PSG star after Wednesday’s shock penalty loss to Evian (though it would be unfair on an ever-improving Nice side in this case). Leading by example, the defence is anchored more solidly when he plays and Silva provides Les Parisiens with distribution from the back too, as he displayed with a number of cross-field passes against Nice. He also saw a sensational effort from the touchline contentiously ruled out as he burst forward to complement the attack in the second half. Although replays have proven the finish to be correctly disallowed, the finish has to be seen to be believed.

Alongside Silva, Mamadou Sakho was a physical presence in the PSG backline. The French international who has spent the last few weeks watching from the side-lines, is not assured of his future. His recent comments have made it clear that he is considering his situation, but his performance alongside the Brazilian colossus will have done him no harm for his chances with Ancelotti. It is evident when Sakho does play alongside Silva that he learns something and improves as a player. Preferred ahead of Alex, perhaps that paring is now a taste of the future as the season winds to a close and Ancelotti starts to bring players into action ahead of next season with no worry of squad rotation. One of those is Gregory Van Der Wiel who also put in a very strong performance, building on his recent showing against Montpellier.

Marco Verratti is another of those players although he has played far more already this season than the Dutchman. He partnered Blaise Matuidi in the centre of midfield with Pastore and Lavezzi either side, and the Italian produced a fine display, creating plenty from deep and demonstrating his superb range of passing with an assured performance. Matuidi, as always, was solid and dependable with another excellent showing demonstrating his all-round talents going forward as well as in defence and midfield.

There was even time for one of the more unheralded members of the PSG side, Chantome, to profit from PSG and Matuidi's creativity. Ibrahimovic went from goal scorer with his penalty, to provider with a superb low pass across goal following a neat exchange with Matuidi. Though Ibra’s performance was far from vintage, he showed steel to put himself back in the firing line so soon after missing a crucial spot-kick at Evian, but then still managed to create the easiest of goals for Chantome. That unconscious ability is by virtue of his strong understandings with Menez and Matuidi particularly within this team.

The result arguably could have been different had Ospina not seen red for his foul on Ezequiel Lavezzi, but PSG were good value for their win. They bounced back from the Evian shock immediately and that was the most important thing, going on the offensive straightaway. That is something we have not seen enough from the capital club in the league. The title is now moving closer and the performance was much improved from Wednesday night’s showing with only five games left to play. It was a solid if unspectacular win, but there are still a few consistency issues to iron out for Ancelotti. There is no more perfect a place to do that than in Annecy next weekend as PSG travel to face struggling Evian once more, with a chance to redeem last week’s embarrassment.

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