Di Maria powers PSG through to semis
By S. Willis
Paris Saint-Germain are through to the Coupe de France semi-finals for the fifth season in a row, two goals from Angel Di Maria and one from Thomas Meunier handing the four-time champs a 3-0 victory at home to Dijon on Tuesday.
Tuesday, 26 February 2019
Coupe de France, quarter-finals
Parc des Princes, Paris
Paris Saint-Germain 3 - 0 Dijon FCO
Under the direction of former Paris Saint-Germain player and coach Antoine Kombouaré, a valiant Dijon side made a first of their trip to the capital, but were calmly outplayed by a Paris Saint-Germain side without Neymar, Edinson Cavani (both injured) or Kylian Mbappé (rested).
Draxler, Di Maria unstoppable
Paris made the job easy for themselves by getting off to a great start, Julian Draxler pulling the strings in coach Thomas Tuchel's 3-4-3 formation and releasing Angel Di Maria on the break. The Argentine's first touch was sublime and the second simply ridiculous, lobbing the ball over a helpless Runar Alex Runarsson for an early opener (8').
Although Romain Amalfitano managed to threaten in the air, Paris were soon two goals to the good - once again thanks to Di Maria, who was once again played in by Draxler. The Argentine looked to find Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting, but when the pass came back off Wesley Lautoa, he was ready to pounce and deftly slotted an angled effort between the stranded Runarsson and his near post (28').
Meunier caps win
Dijon weren't done, however, and went close through Senou Coulibaly's near-free header - just after Dijon's all-time top scorer Julio Tavares had latched into Naim Sliti's pass into the area and seen his bizarre ultra-angled curler fizz twang off the far post (32'). PSG looked to hit back through Choupo-Moting and Di Maria and, after break, Paredes from a free-kick as the home side continued to dominate, but it wasn't until the final 15 minutes that they definitively stitched up the win.
With Draxler once again involved, Choupo-Moting worked a one-two with Thomas Meunier on the right and the fit-again Belgium international made no mistake from the cut-back, lashing a crisp shot home from just inside the area (76').
To Dijon's credit, they never stopped trying to claw their way back, and Runarsson made a solid save one-on-one from PSG sub Christopher Nkunku, but Kombouaré's men couldn't find a solution to a home side full of confidence. Dijon can now fully focus on their main mission: climbing out of the Ligue 1 Conforama drop zone, starting with Saturday's trip to high-flying Lille - where a win would see Paris Saint-Germain stretch their lead to 20 points should they beat Dijon's relegation rivals SM Caen, also on Saturday.
THE PLAYER: Angel Di Maria
Although Germany international Draxler had a superb turn as playmaker in Tuchel's 3-4-3, Di Maria's performance stood out thanks to two superbly taken goals. Lined up on the right-hand side of the front three, the Argentine moved all over the pitch and wreaked havoc wherever he went, notably terrorising Fouad Chafik and Coulibaly with his touch, movement and pace. More importantly, he also flummoxed Runarsson in the Dijon goal, first with a sublime chip and then a slick piece of anticipation and clinical finishing. The stunning performance underlined Di Maria's quality - and importatnce in Tuchel's squad.
THE STAT: 28
Four-time champs Paris Saint-Germain haven't lost a Coupe de France tie since they fell 2-1 to Montpellier in the round of 32 back in late January 2014. That's over five years! In that time, the competition's most successful club (12 titles in total) have won 28 consecutive Coupe de France ties, prevailing in finals against AJ Auxerre (1-0 in 2015), arch-rivals Marseille (4-2 in 2016), Angers SCO (1-0 in 2017) and amateurs Vendée Les Herbiers (2-0 in 2018).