By Robin Bairner
Paris Saint-Germain’s 3-1 win over Chelsea on Wednesday night may not have been achieved with the grace that the Parc des Princes club would have hoped for, yet it went a long way to silencing the critics who claim that Laurent Blanc’s side are a one-man team.
The stage was set at kick off for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, in the form of his life, to finally shine in the latter stages in the Champions League, and many would have predicted that if they were to obtain a positive result they would need the giant Swede at his best.
Yet the 32-year-old cut a ghostly figure for much of the evening, failing to replicate the devastating form he had displayed in the formative stages of the competition. His evening was summed up when Marco Verratti’s inviting through pass was allowed to bounce yards off his chest and the danger was cleared comfortably.
|PASTORE'S PERFECT CAMEO
|93'||GOOOOOOOOOAL!! WHAT A STRIKE! Pastore scores a sublime individual goal, dribbling away from three white shirts and in from the right flank before hammering a low shot past Cech at his near post.|
Cavani had previously helped destroy Chelsea with his previous employers Napoli, and it was his partner in crime on that occasion, Ezequiel Lavezzi, who was instead the offensive talisman that the home side sought.
Although his stunning early half-volley, which ripped into the net after a poor John Terry header, failed to set the tone for the first half of this encounter, the Argentine was a persistent menace.
David Luiz will be remembered as the scorer of what was ultimately the decisive goal – putting through his own net, of course – yet it was a wicked free kick delivery from the Argentine that provoked the error from the Brazil defender. This was one of a number of dangerous dead balls that would test the visiting rearguard from ‘El Pocho’.
"Lavezzi had the physique for it, which has not always been the case this season," Blanc told the media after the game, no doubt pleased with how the 28-year-old has been performing in recent weeks.
"He scores goals, which is important. He was an architect for our success.
"I'm happy for him, but others have been important too."
To round things off, Javier Pastore came off the bench and showed what class the Parisians boast in depth. A maligned figure in Paris, the ex-Palermo hero demonstrated that he is no simple squad filler. He displayed world-class footwork to dodge a couple of challenges before firing past Petr Cech at his near post with an effort that the goalkeeper really should have kept out.
Certainly, anyone who thought that PSG were a one-dimensional attacking unit will be made to reconsider. Even with Ibrahimovic distinctly peripheral to proceedings, the hosts had enough firepower to secure a first-leg advantage. This will offer the French champions a great deal of hope with the giant Swede forced to hobble off with an apparent hamstring problem in the second half - an injury that jeopardises his place in the line-up at Stamford Bridge next week.
Without their main man, PSG are unlikely to provide the same threat – but they may not need to.