Ibrahimovic takes Troyes apart
By I. Holyman
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice and set up the other two as a lacklustre Paris Saint-Germain secured a flattering 4-0 win over ESTAC Troyes to move back to the top of the Ligue 1 table on Saturday.
Paris Saint-Germain 4 - 0 ESTAC Troyes
Carlo Ancelotti had said PSG were "in crisis" following their defeat to nine-man Stade Rennais FC last weekend, and though the Italian must have noted a number of wrinkles that still require ironing out, he can be safe in the knowledge his star striker can always get his team out of the sort of hole created by a three-game winless run. Having teed up Maxwell (17') and Blaise Matuidi (63'), Ibrahimovic added two more himself (70', 89') to take his season's tally to 12 in L1 and move PSG back to the top of the pile before their closest challengers go into action on Sunday.
With Ibrahimovic back in the starting XI after a two-game ban, optimism that PSG would return to winning ways was high at the Parc des Princes, where Troyes had failed to win in ten previous L1 visits. The Swede should have had the opening goal when played through after nine minutes, but looked uncharacteristically short on confidence as he shot tamely at Yohann Thuram-Ulien.
The ESTAC goalkeeper, cousin of French World Cup winner Lilian, had already saved his side, using his sharp reflexes to tip over after Mathieu Saunier's clearance had ricocheted goalwards off former ESTAC man Matuidi. He was beaten, however, soon after when Ibrahimovic skipped away from Rincon down the right and his cross was deflected into the path of Maxwell, who lunged to stab home. After Thuram-Ulien had parried Ezequiel Lavezzi's glancing header, another deflected clearance, this time Rincon's effort hitting team-mate Fabrice Nsakala, provided Ibrahimovic with a shooting opportunity, but he hurriedly backheeled the ball wide of the target from close range.
It was the visitors, with just one away point to their name all season before kick-off, who were the more enterprising as the break approached. Fabien Camus' shot was deflected onto the top of the net while Jean-Christophe Bahebeck twice had a sight of goal only to first shoot wide before then firing straight at Salvatore Sirigu. The teenage forward, on loan at Troyes from PSG, might have had a penalty in the closing stages of the half when challenged by Marco Verratti, but referee Bartolomeu Varela waved play on.
Benjamin Nivet, who struck twice late on last weekend to snatch Troyes a draw against fellow strugglers AS Nancy Lorraine, sent a crisp drive wide early on after the re-start, but though the visitors again looked the more adept on the ball, their lack of a cutting edge meant their promising play would get little reward.
Instead, the hosts proved utterly ruthless. Ibrahimovic did what the Troyes defence didn't and spotted Matuidi's run from deep; his perfectly-weighted through ball allowed for a first-time shot which was too good for Thuram-Ulien. The same was true when Nene slipped a pass into the path of Ibrahimovic, who smashed a rising shot over the Troyes goalkeeper.
PSG's star striker would have been proud of Marcos' overhead kick, which brought a good save from Sirigu with seven minutes left. There was nothing so spectacular, however, from Ibrahimovic as he capped the evening's entertainment, tapping in from virtually on the goalline after Lavezzi's pace down the right had opened up the visitors once again.