The giant Swede might not have been at his best in the victory over Chelsea, but the French side's success showed it boasts formidable strength in depth.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 is 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 the club was able to obtain a positive result, it 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.
Edinson Cavani, then, would surely take center stage? Sadly for the Uruguayan, his sticky period following an injury in the early part of the year continued. Like Zlatan, his touch deserted him at key moments, and aside from a rasping right-footed shot that whizzed just wide in the closing 10 minutes the former Napoli striker offered little direct threat to goal.
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 it 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 rear guard from ‘El Pocho’.
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 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 was a one-dimensional attacking unit will have 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 jeopardizes his place in the lineup at Stamford Bridge next week.
Without its main man, PSG is unlikely to provide the same threat – but it might not need to.