Mon, Nov 11, 2013 - Page 18 News List

Ibrahimovic fires PSG four points clear

AP, PARIS

OGC Nice goalkeeper Lucas Veronese, right, makes a save against Paris Saint-Germain’s Edinson Cavani in their Ligue 1 match in Paris on Saturday.

Photo: Reuters

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a hat-trick as Paris Saint-Germain beat OGC Nice 3-1 to move four points clear at the top of Ligue 1 on Saturday.

Ibrahimovic converted a cross from Gregory van der Wiel in the 39th minute, before scoring from the penalty spot in the 57th.

Nice defender Nemanja Pejcinovic pulled one back from close range in the 70th minute, but Ibrahimovic put the result beyond doubt with a header in the 75th for his eighth league goal.

“We’re lucky to have players who score a lot of goals,” PSG coach Laurent Blanc said. “You can have as much possession as you want, but it’s useless if you’re not efficient in front of goal.”

PSG are the only French club still undefeated this season, while Nice suffered a third straight loss to drop to 12th place.

“We’re a bit frustrated after this match because we could have done better with a bit more focus and application,” Nice midfielder Didier Digard said. “Paris take advantage of every weakness, that’s the difference between the big teams and the small ones.”

Also on Saturday, it was En Avant de Guingamp 0, LOSC Lille Metropole 0; Lorient 0, Stade de Reims 0; SC Bastia 1, Stade Rennais 0; Toulouse 1, AC Ajaccio 1; and Valenciennes 1, Montpellier Herault 1.

Nice nearly caught PSG off guard after three minutes, but centerback Thiago Silva rushed back to prevent Nice striker Dario Cvitanich from converting a low cross from Christian Bruls from close range.

Nice played a high defensive line to stymie PSG’s potent attack.

The tactic worked to a certain extent as Edinson Cavani in the 24th minute and Ibrahimovic in the 28th both had goals disallowed for offside.

PSG quickly spotted cracks in the Nice defense. Ibrahimovic beat the offside trap in the 20th minute to chase a long ball from Thiago Motta, but fired over the bar. Ibrahimovic then exploited another lapse of concentration from the visitors in the 30th minute, but Nice goalkeeper Lucas Veronese came off his line to deny the center forward. Veronese was making his league debut because goalkeepers David Ospina and Mouez Hassen were both injured.

Ibrahimovic made Nice pay for their defensive frailties by ghosting past fullback Gregoire Puel to flick home Van der Wiel’s offering. He came close to doubling the lead on the stroke of halftime, but headed wide Javier Pastore’s free-kick.

The Sweden striker dropped back in the 56th minute to send a ball over the top for Cavani, who was brought down by Veronese. Ibrahimovic converted the subsequent penalty by sending the goalkeeper the wrong way.

PSG seemed in control, but Nice capitalized on the hosts’ complacency when a low cross from Bruls eluded the PSG defense and Pejcinovic tapped home at the far post.

However, Ibrahimovic restored PSG’s two-goal lead by outjumping the defense to head in a cross from substitute Lucas Moura.

Lille kept an eighth straight clean sheet in the league to remain second, one point clear of AS Monaco.

The 2010-2011 champions will have regrets, though, as forward Salomon Kalou missed the target from close range with a header on the stroke of halftime and Guingamp were down to 10 men in the 79th minute when Lionel Mathis picked up a second yellow card.

“When you can’t win a match, you mustn’t lose it,” Lille coach Rene Girard said. “I’m satisfied with this point because it was tough to do better tonight.”

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