Monday, May 23, 2016

Paris Saint-Germain: 2015-16 Coupe de France Champions



Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice on his final appearance for Paris Saint-Germain as the capital club completed a second successive domestic treble with a 4-2 defeat of Olympique de Marseille in Saturday's Coupe de France final.

 Olympique de Marseille 2 - 4 Paris Saint-Germain

Given the gaping 48-point gulf between the pair in the 2015/16 Ligue 1 table, few expected the encounter at the Stade de France to be close, but Abdelaziz Barrada's first-minute shot that fizzed just wide of Salvatore Sirigu's goal suggested OM would not be the lambs to the slaughter many neutrals had predicted they would be.

Those neutrals would have been somewhat more smug less than 60 seconds later, however, as PSG went in front. When picked out wide on the right-hand side, Angel Di Maria flicked a cross into the box - the ball fell perfectly into the stride of the onrushing Blaise Matuidi, whose touch at close range meant Steve Mandanda had next to no chance of saving his side.

Despite their travails in league competition this season, OM gave PSG two keenly-contested Ligue 1 games, and they showed their abliity to match the champions with an equaliser just ten minutes later (12'). When the ball arrived at the feet of Florian Thauvin, he turned beyond Maxwell and fired low into Sirigu's bottom left-hand corner. The Italy international goalkeeper appeared to think the shot was going wide before realising too late it would find the net instead.

Brave block

Sirigu did get everything behind Steven Fletcher's goalbound touch to a Thauvn cross just after the half-hour mark (32') as OM continued to provide a counter-riposte to PSG's promptings at the opposite end where Di Maria, in particular, was proving a handful. It was one of the Argentina international's free-kicks that led to the scramble that afforded Edinson Cavani a sight of goal, but a brave block sent the Uruguay international's shot spinning to safety.

'Safety' was only a relative term, however, as the subsequent corner was not cleared by the OM defence, and Ibrahimovic saw the ball drop kindly - from a tight angle, PSG's all-time leading scorer fired goalwards, but his shot found a phalanx of OM defenders in its path. The Sweden captain then found a diving Mandanda denying him as the OM goalkeeper flew to his right to snare a low drive (37').

Given their start to the game, OM interim boss Franck Passi no doubt told his side to remain alert at the restart. He would have been all the more frustrated, then, to see Nicolas Nkoulou send Matuidi tumbling inside the box with a handful of seconds on the clock - Ibrahimovic stepped up to gleefully send his spot-kick to Mandanda's left as the OM captain dived right (47').

Effortless

Fletcher sent an effort narrowly wide at the opposite end, and a cleaner contact from the on-loan Sunderland AFC forward might have reaped greater reward. PSG showed OM how to be clinical on 56 minutes, capitalising on possession lost cheaply by their opponents with Ibrahimovic slipping the ideal ball into Cavani's path - the striker fired low beyond Mandanda to give the holders breathing space.

An opportune Nkoulou leg prevented Ibrahimovic from finding Di Maria with a ball that surely would have seen the former Real Madrid CF and Manchester United FC man add a fourth. Instead, it was Ibrahimovic himself who capped a convincing triumph. With OM tiring, Matuidi was able to play the ball into space behind the Marseille back four - Ibrahimovic sprinted goalwards before effortlessly beating Mandanda (82').

To their credit, OM continued pushing, and Michy Batshuayi pulled one back (87'), but the only significant action of the closing minutes was the substitution of Ibrahimovic, who was given a deserved ovation.
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