Ligue 1

PSG extends lead before Barca clash

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Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic helped Paris Saint-Germain defeat Montpellier on Friday.
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French leader Paris Saint-Germain warmed up for its UEFA Champions League quarterfinal against Barcelona with a scrappy 1-0 win at home to Montpellier on Friday.

Last season's surprise French champions made PSG work hard for their reward, with the only goal coming when Kevin Gameiro prodded home from close range in the 80th minute.

This season could end in glory on more than one front for the Parisians, with domestic honours increasingly probable but Champions League success also in their sights.

Barcelona will pose more of a test than Montpellier when they visit Parc de Paris on Tuesday, but at least PSG have almost 24 hours longer than the Catalans to prepare for their tussle as Barcelona play Celta Vigo on Saturday evening.

''It was a difficult game, but an important one. Montpellier are a very good side. It's good to win before we face Barcelona,'' PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti said.

The hosts' priority however was to secure a no-fuss win and take an eight-point lead in Ligue 1. They threatened to edge in front after just a minute when Javier Pastore released Clement Chantome on the edge of the Montpellier penalty area. He had an angle to contend with, though, and shot wide.

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who would later play a key role in the winner, was next to threaten the visitors' goal as Marco Verratti's pass over the top found the Swede, who volleyed narrowly over the crossbar.

Montpellier showed an attacking threat when Remy Cabella crossed toward Gaetan Charbonnier, who from 20 yards fizzed a right-footed shot inches wide.

Thiago Silva forced Geoffrey Jourdren into a save at full stretch when he got his head to a free-kick from Jeremy Menez and PSG menaced the Montpellier goal again before the interval when Menez played in Ibrahimovic, whose curled right-footed strike was blocked by the visiting keeper.

Ibrahimovic created the first chance of the second half, heading the ball to Menez, whose thumping 20-yard volley narrowly missed. Jourdren denied Chantome before Montpellier proved their pedigree by almost silencing the expectant home crowd.

Again it was Charbonnier with the chance, Younes Belhanda playing him through on goal. But the finish was not punishing, with goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu able to make the block.

With 10 minutes remaining and David Beckham newly called off the bench for a late push, PSG went ahead.

Menez bustled through midfield and played a smart ball to Ibrahimovic, whose run took him into the left side of the penalty area. Montpellier defenders hurried back but could not intercept the striker's left-footed pass that found Gameiro racing in to turn home from six yards.

David Beckham came on as a substitute with 20 minutes left and helped PSG increase the tempo of the game.

''Beckham played very well when he came on, so did Gameiro,'' Ancelotti said. ''He scored a good goal. David brought us his experience and composure.''

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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