Ibrahimovic And PSG Show Champions League Pedigree

by
Reuters
A Zlatan Ibrahimovic double inspired a brilliant Paris St Germain to a 3-0 home win against Benfica as the French champions underlined their Champions League credentials on Wednesday.

Paris Saint-Germain's Ibrahimovic celebrates after defeating Benfica in their Champions League soccer match

A Zlatan Ibrahimovic double inspired a brilliant Paris St Germain to a 3-0 home win against Benfica as the French champions underlined their Champions League credentials on Wednesday.

Ibrahimovic, who scored in the fifth and 30th minutes, also initiated the second goal with a clever back heel as PSG stayed top of Group C with a maximum six points from two matches.

Ibrahimovic opened the scoring when he tapped in from Gregory van der Wiel's cross and Marquinhos doubled the tally in the 25th, also from close range, before the Sweden striker headed home the third to wrap it up.

Olympiakos are second in the group after beating bottom-of-the-table Anderlecht 3-0, with Benfica in third place on three points.

"What is interesting iS that we were in control from the first minute until the last," coach Laurent Blanc told a news conference.

"We barely conceded a chance. Benfica came here saying they wanted to control the game and I think they will return home quite disappointed from that point of view."

Blanc, however, refused to make long-term predictions.

"We won the first two games and it is clear that we've opened the door (to the last 16) but I don't want to look too far ahead and say that we will qualify first from the group," he said.

Benfica coach Jorge Jesus, who led the team to the Europa League final last season, was not surprised by PSG's performance.

"Last year they were only stopped in the quarter-finals, without losing a game, and since then they've reinforced the team," he said. "We lost to a team who are title contenders."

FRANTIC PACE

PSG started at a frantic pace and went ahead after a perfectly-executed collective move.

Marco Verratti's back heel towards Blaise Matuidi tore up the Benfica defence before Ibrahimovic, who turns 32 on Thursday, put the ball away

Matuidi's and Verratti's work in the midfield meant the visitors barely threatened goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu as PSG imposed their possessive pattern on the match.

"Marco is a very interesting chap, very good technically. He also shines thanks to (fellow midfielder) Thiago Motta," Blanc said, referring to the Italy midfielder's Midas touch in front of the back four.

In the 25th minute, Ibrahimovic fed Verratti with a canny back heel for the Italian to find Matuidi down the line, with Marquinhos poking the ball home from the Frenchman's cross.

Marquinhos, who joined from AS Roma during the close season, had been impressive in the absence of the injured Thiago Silva.

"He's on the way up," said Blanc. "(Other players') injuries have forced me to field him a lot lately. He has been proving that he is a player for the future."

Ibrahimovic headed home the third goal from a corner to put the result beyond doubt on the half hour.

In a dull second half, Benfica had their first shot on target in the 47th minute through Ezequiel Garay but it was easily parried by Sirigu.

Brazil forward Lucas, who replaced Ezequiel Lavezzi in the 70th minute, danced through three players in the midfield in spectacular fashion and his shot was palmed by Artur into the path of Ibrahimovic who skied his attempt over the bar.

Lucas's brilliant through ball then found Van der Wiel, only for Cavani to waste a great chance from the Dutch fullback's cross.