Cavani paves way for PSG
By I. Holyman
Edinson Cavani broke the deadlock as Paris Saint-Germain eventually eased to a 3-0 win over Stade de Reims on Saturday, ideal preparation for Tuesday's Champions League return at Chelsea.
Paris Saint-Germain 3 - 0 Stade de Reims
With more than one eye on Tuesday's quarter-final second leg at Stamford Bridge in mind, Laurent Blanc made eight changes to the PSG line-up that had won 3-1 against the Blues on Wednesday, but was still rewarded with an eighth straight L1 triumph. After Cavani had opened the scoring with his 15th of the league season (43'), Reims defender Aïssa Mandi put through his own goal twice after the break (48', 89') to send the league leaders 16 points clear of AS Monaco FC, who play host to FC Nantes on Sunday.
With top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic up in the VIP stand flanked by his two sons as he begins his recovery from the thigh injury sustained in midweek, Cavani will get his wish to play through the middle of Laurent Blanc's 4-3-3 formation. He almost gave PSG a 15th-minute lead, and indeed would have but for the sharp reflexes of Kossi Agassa, who pushed out the former Napoli striker's near-post header from a corner.
Reims had lost their last three away games, and rarely looked like ending PSG's proud 27-L1 game unbeaten run in the French capital. The only menace they showed before the break came in the form of Odair Fortes' long-range curler that zipped over Salvatore Sirigu's bar.
The Italian international 'keeper had scrambled across his goal in an attempt to cover Fortes' effort, and Agassa did likewise when Adrien Rabiot, making a rare start with Marco Verratti suspended and Blaise Matuidi and Thiago Motta rested, fizzed a left-footed drive narrowly wide.
The teenage midfielder, who turned 19 on Thursday, is likely to be the future of PSG, as it seems is Cavani, who was told by club president Nasser Al Khelaifi this week that he will be staying put next summer. The Uruguayan international certainly looked happy enough when he bundled home from Gregory van der Wiel's inviting ball to give the hosts the advantage at the break.
It was not long before PSG doubled their lead. Lucas was a constant menace to the visiting back four, and after his cross found its way from the right flank to the left for Lucas Digne, the Brazilian international was at the back post to head goalwards after Digne had picked him out. Though the former Sao Paulo FC man's effort struck the far post, it ricocheted into the unfortunate Mandi, who could not prevent the ball crossing the line.
Reims might have pulled one back had Prince Oniangué connected cleanly with Nicolas de Préville's cross, but his attempted volley was easily saved by Sirigu, who was able to enjoy the bright sunshine that bathed the Parc des Princes throughout. After a flowing move involving Lucas and Javier Pastore, another impressive performer, Cavani shot wide before Mandi almost made amends, but the full-back could not keep his header from a corner down.
After replacing Lucas, who received a deserved standing ovation, Hervin Ongenda played in Rabiot, whose low shot was smothered by the onrushing Agassa before the Togo international was beaten again when Mandi inexplicably volleyed in Ezequiel Lavezzi's miscued shot as Reims suffered a fourth successive loss away from home.