PARIS: Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Lucas set each other up for goals as Paris Saint-Germain beat Shakhtar Donetsk 2-0 in their final Champions League group game on Tuesday.
With Real Madrid having already secured first place in Group A and PSG guaranteed second spot, there was little at stake for home fans on a chilly night at Parc des Princes. “The first half wasn’t brilliant, the second was better,” said PSG coach Laurent Blanc, who rested several key players. “It was fairly satisfying given the number of changes we made.”
Despite heavy investment, Blanc’s team has fallen at the quarterfinal stage in the past two seasons and still has a point to prove in Europe. “We know we can challenge strongly when we’re at full strength, and we’ll need to be in February,” Blanc said, adding that he wants to avoid Barcelona and Bayern Munich. “There are two favorites in the competition, and I don’t think we’re the only ones who want to avoid them in the draw.”
The inconsistent Lucas took his chance almost an hour in with a clean strike into the left corner. The Brazilian then headed a long ball down into the path of Ibrahimovic, who finished with an equally crisp shot near the end to make him PSG’s all-time leading scorer in Europe with 17 goals.”It’s not something I was thinking of, the only thing I’m thinking of is enjoying my game,” said Ibrahimovic, who has 10 goals in his past nine games.
He certainly had an eventful night, clearing one Shakhtar header off the line in the second half, and almost scoring an own goal late in the first only for goalkeeper Kevin Trapp to react in time.
Shakhtar, which finished third to qualify for the Europa League, had chances but its star midfielder Alex Teixeira was unusually wasteful in front of goal. “We didn’t deserve to lose, but the class of PSG’s players showed in the way they took chances,” Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu said. “PSG is among the best four teams in Europe now.”
He even rated Blanc’s side higher than Madrid. “Real Madrid relies more on individual players. PSG is better at the moment.” Still, Lucescu’s side – which scored 34 times in eight games before the match – almost caught PSG napping after five minutes.
Left back Ismaily found space down the flank but striker Eduardo somehow skewered wide with the goal gaping. The next to miss was Teixeira, whose nine goals in six games made him a big threat, but he failed to control a ball that landed invitingly at his feet near the penalty spot.
Shakhtar should have punished PSG’s occasional profligacy, but Teixeira scooped well over from eight meters out. It was a costly miss as Lucas struck soon after.
Angel Di Maria added some much-needed urgency when he came on and played in Ibrahimovic with a clever pass, but he poked wide with only the goalkeeper to beat. Astonishingly, that miss drew jeers from some sections of the crowd – despite Ibrahimovic being the club’s all-time leading scorer with 120 goals.
But the fans were indebted to him at both ends, as he headed Yaroslav Rakitskiy’s header off the line when Shakhtar pushed for an equalizer. – AP