Ibrahimovic scores twice as PSG beats Benfica 3-0

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

scored.

”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

minutes later.

”We paid the price for not starting the game focused enough

against a strong team like PSG,” Benfica midfielder Enzo Perez

said.

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

role.

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

looped over.

Artur then made a fine save with his legs as Cavani tried to

stab the ball in from close range in the 74th.