Star duo fire Paris to Coupe glory
By I. Holyman
Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani both scored twice as Paris Saint-Germain retained the Coupe de la Ligue with a 4-0 defeat of ten-man SC Bastia on Saturday.
Coupe de la Ligue final
Stade de France, Paris, 11 April
SC Bastia 0 - 4 Paris Saint-Germain
Banned for four domestic games after the final at the Stade de France, Ibrahimovic appeared determined to make up for the time he will be sidelined with a typically bullish display, adding to the hat-trick he scored in midweek in securing Paris' place in the Coupe de France final. The Sweden captain smashed home a penalty (21') after Bastia centre-back Sébastien Squillaci had been sent off for bringing down Ezequiel Lavezzi in the area before drilling in a fine second (41').
Cavani, who had been nursing a thigh injury, emerged from the bench just after the hour mark to glance home a header (81') before adding a gloss to the scoreline in added time (90+1') to give Laurent Blanc's men a major confidence boost ahead of next week's Champions League quarter-final first-leg tie with Barcelona.
Backed by a massive, vociferous following, Bastia made a high-octane start, pressing Paris feverishly while also making forward strides, notably down the flanks from where came an early opportunity for Giovanni Sio to head goalwards. The January signing from Basel could not keep his effort down, however. There was more generous Paris marking from a set-piece soon afterwards, but François Modesto's header across goal was cut out before Bastia could trouble Nicolas Douchez.
Bastia captain Yannick Cahuzac had asked his team-mates to play to their strengths, and they did in harrassing Paris, winning the ball high up the pitch and not allowing the holders to get into their stride. They could not contain them indefinitely, however, and Lavezzi escaped down the left before firing a deep cross that Ibrahimovic could not head on target.
Paris' leading scorer, who has now scored 11 goals in his last eight domestic outings, was given a far clearer sight of goal soon after when Squillaci sent the pacy Lavezzi tumbling as the Argentina international dashed purposefully into the box. After the former France international centre-back had trudged disconsolately from the pitch, Ibrahimovic - unperturbed by Alphonse Aréola's attempts to break his concentration - emphatically smashed home the spot-kick.
There was almost as much power, but - unfortunately for Paris - less direction when Ibrahimovic sent a long-range free-kick skimming wide of Aréola's goal shortly afterwards. The young goalkeeper was kept on his toes as Paris, with the man and goal advantage, remained camped in the Bastia half of the pitch.
They probed, mostly through Serge Aurier's runs down the right. The Ivorian almost picked out Lavezzi, only for Mathieu Peybernes, who had been brought on to replace Squillaci, to clear. Another attempted centre, with his weaker left foot, brought no reward, while Maxwell fired wide from another Aurier ball from out wide.
However, when released a fourth time in quick succession, the ex-Toulouse FC saw his cross headed out to Ibrahimovic on the edge of the box. After taking a touch, the former AC Milan forward sent a firm drive low beyond Aréola to double Paris' lead.
Given little chance by Ibrahimovic, the young Bastia goalkeeper, who is on loan to the Corsican club from Paris, did manage to get his hands on the ball to block a Lavezzi shot in the closing stages of the half - without that save, Bastia would surely have gone in at half-time with damage limitation their sole aim for the remaining 45 minutes.
They needed their goalkeeper to be alert soon after the break as Javier Pastore shot straight at Aréola before he then rushed from his goal to face Lavezzi, who - with the angle narrowing - sent a shot across the face of the target.
Never short of heart, Bastia persevered, and they very nearly got themselves back into the game from a Ryad Boudebouz set-piece. The former FC Sochaux-Montbéliard man's deep free-kick delivery found Florian Marange arriving at the back post, but the experienced defender saw his header flash just wide of Douchez's left-hand post.
That was as close as Ghislain Printant's men would come whereas Paris threatened constantly at the opposite end.
Marco Verratti stung the hands of Aréola, who then backpeddalled deftly to tip over Marquinhos' long-range lob. He was not able to do anything, however, when Cavani darted to the near post before directing a cross from another substitute, Lucas, into the far corner with a classy header.
The Uruguay international broke clear with just seconds left and calmly beat the Bastia 'keeper once again with a sidefoot finish that left the Paris fans chanting his name after the final whistle, and earned his club a fifth Coupe de la Ligue.