Tue, Feb 25, 2014 - Page 18 News List

PSG restore five-point lead

AFP, PARIS

Paris Saint-Germain’s Thiago Silva, right, vies for the ball with Toulouse’s Jean-Daniel Akpa Akpro, left, in their Ligue 1 match in Toulouse, France, on Sunday.

Photo: Reuters

A hat-trick by Swedish star Zlatan Ibrahimovic inspired French champions Paris Saint-Germain to a 4-2 win over Toulouse on Sunday and their first away victory in Ligue 1 since Jan. 11.

Ibrahimovic’s treble — which took him to 22 goals in Ligue 1 this season — and one from Argentine Ezequiel Lavezzi, restored their five-point lead over AS Monaco, who had beaten Stade de Reims 3-2 on Friday, and extended their unbeaten run in Ligue 1 to 10 games.

Toulouse’s goals were scored by Wissam Ben Yedder.

LOSC Lille Metropole overtook AS Saint-Etienne and moved into third on 46 points after Sunday’s late goalless draw with Olympique Lyonnais, while goals from Paul-Georges Ntep de Madiba, Anders Konradsen and Ola Toivonen gave Stade Rennais a 3-0 victory at Nantes.

Toulouse remain 11 points above the relegation zone, but without a home win since the end of November last year.

PSG coach Laurent Blanc, who selected the same starting XI as he had done for last Tuesday’s 4-0 away win over Bayer 04 Leverkusen in their UEFA Champions League round-of-16 clash, said nothing surprised him about Ibrahimovic.

“He is not just a goalscorer, he is also a formidable passer of the ball,” Blanc said. “I am not sure whether this is the best season of his career, but the statistics are really impressive [he also has 10 goals in the Champions League].”

Both sides took time to settle and created little of note until the hosts were presented with a clear chance to open the scoring, but Denmark international striker Martin Braithwaite made a complete mess of it by missing an open goal from close range.

PSG made them pay for that as Uros Spajic took Ezequiel Lavezzi’s legs from under him in a clumsy challenge on the half-hour mark, leaving the referee no choice but to book the Serbian and award a penalty.

Ibrahimovic duly drilled it down the middle to put them 1-0 up.

PSG went close to doubling their lead in the 38th minute when Blaise Matuidi stormed forward and saw his shot from the left side of the penalty area beat the goalkeeper, but come back off the post.

The visitors were then guilty of as bad a miss as Braithwaite’s as Ibrahimovic worked some space on the left and put in a low cross which beat the goalkeeper, but Thiago Silva sent his close-range effort wide.

Toulouse took advantage of that let off as a minute from halftime an unmarked Ben Yedder leveled for the hosts with a super right-footed volley from Etienne Didot’s cross.

PSG retook the lead in the 56th minute when Lavezzi scored with a smartly taken shot inside the area after Ibrahimovic had torn through the Toulouse defense to pass to Matuidi, and though the latter’s back-heel failed to come off it fooled the Toulouse defense and fell to the Argentine, who finished with aplomb.

The visitors put the result beyond doubt in the 68th minute as the outstanding Ibrahimovic — who had just had an outrageously bold long-range effort tipped over the bar by Zacharie Boucher — rose to head home Yohan Cabaye’s free-kick.

However, Toulouse pulled a goal back four minutes later when Braithwaite found Ben Yedder and he slotted the ball home, although he looked to be well offside, and despite PSG’s protests the referee gave it.

Ibrahimovic finally put the game to bed three minutes from time when he knocked home the rebound after his penalty had been saved by Boucher.

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