Edinson Cavani’s early goal helped Paris Saint-Germain secure their place in the UEFA Champions League round-of-16 with two games to spare after a 1-0 home win over APOEL of Cyprus on Wednesday.
Uruguay striker Cavani found the back of the net in the first minute to hand PSG their second win in as many matches against APOEL, who were eliminated from Europe’s premier club competition.
PSG lead Group F with 10 points from four games ahead of Barcelona, who trail the French champions by one point. Ajax lie third on two points and APOEL are bottom with one.
“We did what we had to. It was difficult to find space against a team who came to defend,” PSG captain Thiago Silva said. “There are still things to improve. Now we rest, because on Sunday we have another game that will be more difficult than this one.”
PSG coach Laurent Blanc added that he had hoped his side would score more goals on Wednesday.
“We wanted more, the fans wanted more. There should have been more goals.” Blanc told a press conference. “We would like to finish top of the group, but so do Barcelona. However, there is one game [against Ajax] before the Camp Nou and it will be equally important.”
APOEL had a good opportunity in the first half through Nuno Morais, but they were never a threat at the Parc des Princes, even if PSG wasted almost a dozen chances in an erratic performance four days before taking on archrivals and Ligue 1 leaders Olympique de Marseille.
Blanc’s side were still without talismanic striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has been out of action with a heel injury since September, but it was quickly forgotten.
Blanc said he was hopeful Ibrahimovic could return on Sunday to face Marseille.
Cavani scored PSG’s fastest goal in the Champions League when he volleyed home from inside the penalty area after teeing himself up from Gregory van der Wiel’s cross after 54 seconds, also benefiting from goalkeeper Urko Pardo’s clumsiness.
It was Cavani’s fourth goal in as many games and the Uruguayan then wasted a handful of clear chances.
Morais came close to equalizing shortly afterwards, but he skied a close-range shot over the bar.
At the end of a swift move between Javier Pastore and Lucas, Cavani hit the post with a diving header from the Brazilian’s cross from the right in the 18th minute.
Lucas’ low shot then shaved the post after it was deflected by Pardo.
Cavani missed a golden opportunity in the 37th minute when he pushed the ball a little too far as he tried to dribble past Pardo in the area.
After the break, Pastore and Lucas unsettled the APOEL defense with dazzling runs, but both failed to find the target.
Cavani missed yet another chance to put the game to bed with a low shot that went just wide of Pardo’s post 10 minutes from time.
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