Zlatan Ibrahimovic found his scoring touch again with two goals
as Paris Saint-Germain eased to a 3-0 win against Benfica in their
Champions League Group C game on Wednesday.
The imposing Swede had scored only twice in 10 games prior to
the Benfica match. But he took only five minutes to tap-in from
close range and headed home another as PSG tore Benfica’s defense
apart during a rampant first half in which Brazilian center-half
Marquinhos got the other goal.
”The biggest players are raring to go in the Champions League.
(Ibrahimovic) has never won it,” PSG coach Laurent Blanc said.
”His performance was very, very good tonight.”
Big-spending PSG leads the group with six points and seven goals
”What was good tonight was that we controlled the game from the
first to the last minute,” Blanc said. ”We scored when we were on
top and caused them problems throughout.”
This win was so comfortable that, toward the end of the first
half, the home fans were already singing unpleasant songs about
Marseille – the bitter rivals meet in a domestic match on Sunday –
and Blanc was even able to experiment with his formation.
”What reassures me is that we hardly conceded a chance,” Blanc
said. ”Benfica came here saying they wanted to control possession,
but they will go home feeling unsatisfied.”
PSG remains unbeaten this season and has not lost at home in
European competitions since November 2006.
”We came up against a very good team, it’s as simple as that,”
Benfica coach Jorge Jesus said. ”They showed the weight of their
investment. They reached the quarterfinals last season without
losing a game and they will be even stronger this season. I think
they can win the competition.”
Blanc started with his favored 4-3-3 system, with Ibrahimovic –
captain in the absence of injured defender Thiago Silva – flanked
by Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani.
Blaise Matuidi found space near the penalty area and his pass
behind the Benfica defense allowed right back Gregory van der Wiel
to run on and square the ball perfectly to give Ibrahimovic his
32nd goal overall in the Champions League.
Artur saved Matuidi’s low shot and Ibrahimovic forced a corner
after some impressive trickery as PSG pushed for a second goal,
which duly arrived in the 25th.
Thiago Motta’s corner from the left was not properly cleared,
and fell to Marco Verratti. He showed a delicate touch to flick a
pass to Matuidi, who whipped the ball across from the byline and
Marquinhos turned the ball in.
”Marco’s a very good player and he has exceptional quality with
the ball at his feet,” Blanc said. ”Verratti and Thiago Motta
complement each other very well.”
Benfica could not cope with Ibrahimovic, who rose imperiously at
the back post to head home Motta’s corner from the right just five
”We paid the price for not starting the game focused enough
against a strong team like PSG,” Benfica midfielder Enzo Perez
Benfica missed a half-chance in the 18th when Cardozo got the
better of Marquinhos and helped the ball along to left back
Guilherme Siqueira, but his shot went way over.
The visitors finally had a scoring chance just after the
restart, when center half Ezequiel Garay’s swerving freekick was
punched away by goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu.
PSG sat back in the first 15 minutes of the second half, but
Benfica did little with the extra space.
Blanc switched to a 4-4-2 formation with 20 minutes to go,
giving Cavani the chance to play in his preferred center forward
Substitute Lucas made an immediate impression when he came on,
breaking through the middle and hitting a low shot that Artur
palmed away. The rebound fell to Ibrahimovic, but the ball was
slightly high when it reached him, and a difficult hat-trick chance
Artur then made a fine save with his legs as Cavani tried to
stab the ball in from close range in the 74th.