Sun, Feb 16, 2014 - Page 18 News List

PSG coast past Valenciennes to extend lead

AFP, PARIS

Paris Saint-Germain extended their cushion at the top of France’s Ligue 1 to eight points on Friday after cruising past struggling Valenciennes 3-0 at the Parc des Princes.

Ezequiel Lavezzi struck a first-half opener for Laurent Blanc’s men before two goals in two second-half minutes, the first from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the second an own-goal by Gary Kugelmacher, saw PSG coast to victory.

The win extended the Parisian club’s unbeaten home run in the league to 25 matches and served as an ideal rehearsal for Tuesday’s trip to Bayer 04 Leverkusen in the last 16 of the Champions League.

“The focus before Leverkusen was above all to win this match,” Blanc said.

“The players have been thinking about Leverkusen, but [tonight] they put it to one side and got the job done. We could have been more efficient, but to score three goals and not concede any isn’t bad,” the PSG coach added.

Defeat for Valenciennes means Ariel Jacobs’ side remain in the bottom three, two points from safety and fourth-from-bottom Evian Thonon Gaillard.

Bearing in mind next week’s first-leg tie in Germany, Blanc predictably chose to rotate his squad, making five changes to the side involved in the stalemate against AS Monaco last weekend.

Midfielder Yohan Cabaye made his full debut following his arrival from Newcastle United last month, with Jeremy Menez handed a rare start and Ezequiel Lavezzi returning to the side in place of Lucas Moura.

Blanc had expressed concerns of “mental fatigue” among his players following a congested run of fixtures, but the Frenchman would have been encouraged by the hosts’ bright start, but for their profligate finishing.

Lavezzi made an immediate impact, charging down a defensive clearance and lofting the ball over goalkeeper Nicolas Penneteau toward Ibrahimovic, although the Swede’s tame goalbound flick was cleared off the line by Kagelmacher.

Lavezzi was then denied by a fine Saliou Ciss block, before Penneteau flew to his left to keep out a Thiago Silva header with Ibrahimovic scuffing the rebound across the face of goal and Marquinhos unable to convert at the far post.

It was of little surprise when PSG broke the deadlock 18 minutes in, even if the nature of the goal was somewhat fortuitous.

Ibrahimovic drilled a 30m free-kick into the defensive wall and the ball broke favorably to Lavezzi for the Argentine to stick away his fourth goal of the season.

A second very nearly followed soon after as Lavezzi flicked Gregory van der Wiel’s cross wide of the far post.

The Argentine was then thwarted by Penneteau, who turned his effort round the post, having been played in by Ibrahimovic.

The hosts were slicing apart Valenciennes with alarming ease, with Lucas Digne flashing an effort narrowly wide after bursting into the box.

Valenciennes failed to register a single effort on target in the first half, their best chance coming on the half-hour, when David Ducourtioux dragged wide from 12 yards out.

The visitors were hanging on as PSG failed to transform their superiority into goals, but Ibrahimovic eased any tension five minutes after half-time as he extended his league-best goals tally to 19, stabbing home after Cabaye’s mishit volley bounced into his path.

The points were made safe just two minutes later as Lavezzi broke free down the left and played in a cross that Kagelmacher bundled into his own net.

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