PARIS: A Zlatan Ibrahimovic brace saw Paris Saint Germain stretch their lead atop Ligue 1 to a massive 24 points on Sunday in a 2-0 away win over a spirited Saint Etienne. Not only was this a club record 13th straight win, it also sees the rampaging Paris side equal Nantes’ 20-year-old record of 32 league games without defeat. PSG have not lost in Ligue 1 since a 3-2 defeat to Bordeaux on March 15 last year. “There’s been a great deal of talk about the record and it helped me motivate the players, even if they don’t really need that,” PSG coach Laurent Blanc said after the game.
“I ask a lot from the players, I demand it. And what I take away tonight as much as the record is the way this team never gives up.” Saint Etienne coach Christophe Galtier had joked before the game that Ibrahimovic must hate his team so often does he score against them. And the giant Swede duly clinched his 18th league goal of the campaign on the hour with a certain venom before scoring his 19th, a simple tap in, with the last kick of the game. “This team seems unbeatable,” Galtier said. “We’ve never seen anything like it in this league, not even Lyon when they were dominating everything.” Paris now have 63 points from 23 games after twenty wins and three draws, while in second Monaco have 39 points after losing 3-0 to third placed Angers, who now have 37, on Saturday.
The hosts threw everything they had at the champions and drew several key saves from ‘keeper Kevin Trapp, notably through captain Franck Tabanou. “My players showed great courage and we shook them up. But we came up against a good ‘keeper,” added Galtier
PSG’s Argentine winger Angel di Maria was a constant menace with his runs and passes and set up Ibrahimovic for a cheeky back-heel shot by lobbing the static defence. But the opener came when Ibrahimovic ran onto a perfectly weighted Serge Aurier cross to fire home at full stretch from the six yard line just after the hour. The clincher came in the closing moments after a sobering exhibition of PSG’s masterful passing game found the striker unmarked at the back post. Earlier Sunday, Caen continued their fine season by beating Nice 2-0 as the visitors, who sold 49 percent of their shares to a mystery Saudi prince and English businessman this week, failed in their bid to move second.
The hosts took the lead when Julien Feret teed up Rony Rodelin to drive in his sixth league goal of the season. Andy Delort doubled the lead from the penalty spot before half-time to leave Nice in disarray. Bordeaux’s lanky striker Cheick Diabate, who scored a brace in last week’s 2-2 draw with Nantes, grabbed another two in a 4-0 romp over Rennes. His aerial strength saw him power home a well placed header to grab the opener on the half hour and he then drilled a sharp left-footed snap-shot past Rennes ‘keeper Benoit Costil just after the restart to make it 2-0, setting his side up for a deservedly clear win. Surprise package Angers inflicted a 3-0 defeat on Monaco on Saturday to reignite their unlikely challenge for a Champions League spot. Cheikh N’Doye deflected in Romain Saiss’s effort after Monaco failed to clear a corner, N’Doye doubled the advantage before halftime as Angers took utter control, before gloss was added to the scoreline in the second period by Mohamed Yattara. — AFP