PSG reaches Cup semifinals after testy win over Saint-Etienne
PARIS (AP) — Zlatan Ibrahimovic chested home the winning goal to give Paris Saint-Germain a 1-0 win at Saint-Etienne on Tuesday to reach the League Cup semifinals in a feisty contest that was interrupted for 15 minutes after home fans threw objects onto the field.
The pressure was firmly on Blanc following Saturday's 4-2 defeat at Bastia — PSG's third straight league game without a win — and the relief was evident at the final whistle as several players congratulated understudy goalkeeper Nicolas Douchez.
"Despite all the talk after the defeat to Bastia, we played some good football," Blanc said. "We analyzed our abysmal second half performance in Bastia and the players took stock. I saw a lot of positive things tonight."
Earlier, Bastia rallied from a goal down to beat nine-man Rennes 3-1.
PSG keeper Douchez — playing in the absence of regular No. 1 Salvatore Sirigu — made an outstanding reflex save in the 86th minute, flinging himself to his right to beat away striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel's header with the palm of his hand.
Douchez's decisive save even earned him a rare high-five from Ibrahimovic, who is far more accustomed to taking the glory.
"It's always hard to win against Saint-Etienne. They are one of the best teams in the league and they proved that again tonight," Douchez said. "Our team spirit was very good. We gave everything we had."
PSG's sloppy performance against Bastia last weekend saw the two-defending French champion lead 2-0 inside 20 minutes before falling apart to slip down to fourth place in the league.
Blanc publicly criticized his players' lack of mental strength and challenged them to bounce back.
Although Tuesday's win was far from convincing, PSG at least showed more team spirit.
In an even first half, Ibrahimovic had two efforts saved by Saint-Etienne goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier, while Saint-Etienne midfielder Moustapha Sall's firm downward header was cleared off the line by PSG midfielder Marco Verratti.
Ruffier saved winger Lucas' effort midway through the second half, Ibrahimovic put PSG ahead in the 72nd minute when he chested in Lucas' cross from the right, although Ruffier was adamant he had scooped the ball away before it crossed the line.
After the goal was awarded, some fans threw objects at the match officials, prompting referee Said Ennjimi to take the players' off the field as a precautionary measure.
Shortly after the match resumed, PSG midfielder Blaise Matuidi went through in the 80th but his shot was saved by Ruffier.
Saint-Etienne had PSG firmly on the back foot for the last 10 minutes.
PSG center half Thiago Silva's botched clearance in the 85th was picked up by forward Kevin Monnet-Paquet, but he shot straight at Douchez.
In Corsica, defender Sylvain Armand put Rennes ahead in the 12th minute and center-half Sebastien Squillaci equalized in the 46th.
After Norwegian midfielder Anders Konradsen was sent off in the 65th, Rennes' defense capitulated in the 71st when goalkeeper Benoit Costil failed to claim a corner and defender Romain Danze headed an own goal.
Five minutes later, Swiss midfielder Ermir Lenjani was red-carded, and substitute Djibril Cisse added the third in the 90th.
In Wednesday's quarterfinals, Monaco hosts Guingamp and Lille faces Nantes.