Fri, Apr 10, 2015 - Page 18 News List

Zlatan hat-trick fires PSG into Cup final

AFP, PARIS

Paris Saint-Germain’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, left, reacts after a tackle by AS Saint-Etienne defender Loic Perrin during their Coupe de France semi-final at the Parc des Princes in Paris, France, on Wednesday.

Photo: AFP

A Zlatan Ibrahimovic hat-trick fired Paris Saint-Germain to a 4-1 Coupe de France semi-final victory over AS Saint-Etienne at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday as their epic quest for a four-trophy sweep continued apace.

Ibrahimovic’s opener from the penalty spot in the 21st minute was his 100th goal for the club, he then rounded the goalkeeper after 81 minutes for the second and completed his hat-trick with a fine run and shot in stoppage-time.

However, an injury-depleted PSG had to fight for long periods of this gutsy tie, as Saint-Etienne drew level with a Romain Hamouma header, going in 1-1 at halftime, before an Ezequiel Lavezzi header put PSG back ahead at the 60 minute mark.

Saint-Etienne coach Christophe Galtier praised Swede Ibrahimovic as “the greatest foreigner to have played in France” as he lamented his side’s inability to match PSG’s pounding artillery.

PSG have scored 11 times against Saint-Etienne in four games this season of which eight have come off Ibrahimovic’s boot.

“There’s nothing to say, at this level they are unbeatable, in any case for us,” Galtier said.

“They had the perfect match, in intensity, technical plan, determination,” he said. “It’s never good to take on this type of team so near the final.”

“I’m disappointed for my players that they weren’t able to go all the way in this adventure, but that’s all,” he said.

“There was too big a difference,” Galtier added. “They are a war machine. They were superior on all levels.”

PSG face second-division AJ Auxerre, who beat holders En Avante de Guingamp 1-0 on Tuesday, in the Coupe de France final at the Stade de France on May 30.

PSG also take on SC Bastia in the Coupe de la Ligue final at the same venue on Saturday, face Barcelona in Paris in the Champions League quarter-finals first leg on Wednesday next week and head the Ligue 1 table by a single point over Olympique Lyonnais.

No French club has ever clinched the domestic treble.

With defender David Luiz, midfielder Thiago Motta, and forwards Edinson Cavani and Lucas all ruled out through injury, coach Laurent Blanc also rested Blaise Matuidi with a packed calendar of matches coming PSG’s way.

The giant Swede converted his spot-kick with aplomb after Lavezzi had been tugged from behind and the referee awarded a generous penalty.

However, Saint-Etienne stormed back and were level four minutes later when Hamouma’s glancing header from a free-kick curled beyond goalkeeper Nicolas Douchez at the near post.

Mevlut Erding should then have given the visitors the lead after 32 minutes, but he hesitated when through on Douchez, who deflected his tardy shot to safety.

Lavezzi then ran onto a sumptuous cross from Pastore just after the hour and rose alone on the edge of the area, his looping header leaving Stephane Ruffier rooted to the spot as the ball went inside his far post.

Ibrahimovic then calmed home nerves running onto a through-ball to round the goalkeeper and slot home into an empty net to send the stadium wild.

His third goal was equally extravagant as his trademark dribble found him a glimmer of space to shoot home his 102nd goal for the club.

Ibrahimovic became PSG’s second-top all-time scorer, seven shy of Pauleta’s 109 goals.

Saint-Etienne ’keeper Stephane Ruffier kept his side in contention early in the first half as PSG came out all guns blazing, saving twice from Lavezzi and stopping a fierce Javier Pastore shot as a series of goal efforts zipped wide.

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