Ibrahimovic stars as PSG defeats Lens to pressure Lyon in Ligue 1
PARIS (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain warmed up for next week's Champions League game against Chelsea with a 4-1 win over Lens that moved it provisionally top of the French league on Saturday.
Despite the morale-boosting win, PSG coach Laurent Blanc was critical of his players for not scoring more against a side mired in 19th place and facing near-certain relegation.
"The Chelsea game will be on a different level, so you can't compare. I would have liked for us to take more of our chances," Blanc said. "We were a bit wasteful. We'll have to do better in this domain. In the first half, we were very good in terms of our approach play, but you have to take your chances."
Zlatan Ibrahimovic netted his 12th league goal of the season with a penalty after David Luiz—playing in a midfield role—opened the scoring with a free kick late in the first half.
Lens striker Yoann Touzghar pulled a goal back to send a scare into PSG, but PSG answered when midfielder Blaise Matuidi and winger Javier Pastore came off the bench to add second-half goals.
Lyon was two points behind PSG, and can reclaim top spot with victory at sixth-place Montpellier on Sunday. Marseille was three points behind PSG in third.
Fourth-place Monaco won 3-1 at lowly Evian, with 19-year-old striker Anthony Martial and 18-year-old defender Almamy Toure both on target, to keep alive its chances of catching Marseille. Monaco was six behind and has played a game less.
Blanc rested center halves Thiago Silva and Marquinhos ahead of Wednesday's trip to Chelsea in the second leg of their last-16 match—the first leg ended 1-1—while striker Edinson Cavani came on midway through the second half.
As was the case in last weekend's 0-0 draw at Monaco, PSG squandered chances.
Luiz finally broke the deadlock right before halftime with a floating free kick from about 30 meters out. The swerve surprised goalkeeper Rudy Riou, who stood flat-footed as the ball sailed past him.
Winger Ezequiel Lavezzi, who has been low on form and confidence this season, missed an easy chance for 2-0 in the 53rd as he sprinted through and rounded Riou, only to hesitate before shooting and getting the ball taken off him.
"Some players are finding it tough to score. This was the dream match for them to get their confidence back," Blanc said. "If he (Lavezzi) misses the same chance at Stamford Bridge, I'm not the only one who'll be angry."
Ibrahimovic soothed Blanc's nerves with a confidently taken penalty on the hour mark.
Lens got back into the game through Touzghar. But any hopes of a comeback were soon curtailed as Ibrahimovic fed Pastore and his cross from the right was turned in by Matuidi for his first league goal of the season.
PSG's fourth goal was expertly created as Pastore passed to Ibrahimovic on the edge of the penalty area, the imposing Swede scooped the ball over the defense back to him, and Pastore ran onto it to hit a clean volley into the bottom corner.
"PSG was like a steamroller tonight. When they decide to speed things up you suffer the consequences," said Lens coach Antoine Kombouare, who coached PSG from 2009-12. "When we got back to 2-1 it was our only chance, because we knew their minds would be on Chelsea."
Also, Bordeaux won 2-1 at Caen, which played a man down for the last hour but leveled in the 75th through striker Sloan Privat. Rolan's last-gasp penalty helped Bordeaux move provisionally above Saint-Etienne and into fifth place.
Rennes beat last-place Metz 1-0, Reims coasted to a 3-1 home win over Nantes, and Corsican side Bastia beat Nice 2-1. Nice had two players sent off, including Gregoire Puel, coach Claude Puel's son.
Saint-Etienne hosts Lorient, and Guingamp faces Lille in Sunday's other games.
Marseille won 6-1 at Toulouse on Friday.