Thu, Feb 06, 2014 - Page 18 News List

Ibrahimovic nets twice to put PSG in final

AFP, PARIS

Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Nicolas Douchez, left, tries to save a header by Papy Djilobodji of Nantes, right, in their Coupe de la Ligue semi-final at the Stade de la Beaujoire Louis-Fonteneau in Nantes, France, on Tuesday.

Photo: AFP

Zlatan Ibrahimovic struck early and late on Tuesday to keep Paris Saint-Germain on course for a domestic double as the Ligue 1 leaders edged past Nantes 2-1 to reach the final of the Coupe de la Ligue.

Ibrahimovic struck his first goal in this season’s competition to put PSG ahead after just five minutes at the Stade de la Beaujoire Louis-Fonteneau.

Olivier Veigneau responded with an equalizer nine minutes from the end, but Ibrahimovic popped up with his second of the match, and 31st of the season, in the final minute to send the three-time winners through to April’s final at the Stade de France.

“It was a real cup tie, the script is often like that,” PSG coach Laurent Blanc said. “In the first [half] we led 1-0. We had chances to double our lead, but didn’t. In the second half Nantes applied more pressure, were more involved, created some chances and equalized, but in the last 10 minutes my team stepped up a gear. We’re in the final, that’s what we were looking for and we’ve done it.”

With PSG already eliminated from the Coupe de France, Blanc fielded a strong side that featured just three changes from the team that beat Girondins de Bordeaux 2-0 on Friday last week.

Ezequiel Lavezzi was drafted in to replace the injured Edinson Cavani on the left of an attacking three, while Marco Verratti, back from suspension, was restored to his midfield duties at the expense of Javier Pastore.

Reserve goalkeeper Nicolas Douchez came in for Salvatore Sirigu, but new recruit Yohan Cabaye was again only listed among the substitutes.

Having swept the two league encounters this season, including a 5-0 demolition at the Parc des Princes just over two weeks previously, PSG almost struck first blood just four minutes in as Lavezzi hit the outside of the post following Blaise Matuidi’s burst into the penalty area.

Heavy rain made for a slick playing surface at la Beaujoire and it played a factor just moments after that initial reprieve as a poor clearance from Nantes goalkeeper Remy Riou gifted Ibrahimovic the opening goal.

Riou appeared to slip as he went to launch Issa Cissokho’s back-pass upfield, succeeding only in sending the ball straight to Ibrahimovic, with the Swede firing a first-time left-foot long-range effort over the head of the unfortunate Nantes goalkeeper.

Thiago Silva nearly added a second for the visitors inside the opening 15 minutes, but Riou managed to divert to safety the Brazilian’s fierce drive from a narrow angle.

Lavezzi then found himself in behind the Nantes defense, but was thwarted by the legs of Riou on the half-hour mark.

The hosts almost drew level from their first genuine opportunity as Papy Djilobodji rose to meet Vincent Bessat’s corner, only for a perfectly placed Verratti to clear off the line with referee Laurent Duhamel waving away protests for a handball.

A fractious second half produced little in the way of goalmouth action until Veigneau netted an 81st-minute equalizer for Nantes as he slammed home substitute Georges-Kevin Nkoudou’s cross.

However, with extra-time beckoning the hosts were undone as Ibrahimovic escaped the attentions of Oswaldo Vizcarrondo to head in Lucas’ cross from the right on 90 minutes and punch PSG’s ticket to the Stade de France.

Awaiting PSG in the final will be the winners of yesterday’s tie at the Stade de Gerland between Olympique Lyonnais and Ligue 2 outfit ES Troyes AC.

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