Defending Coupe de la Ligue champions Paris Saint-Germain needed a late Edinson Cavani goal to defeat AS Saint-Etienne 1-0 Wednesday night at the Parc des Princes and advance to the quarterfinals of the tournament.
Laurent Blanc fielded a surprisingly strong team to face Christophe Galtier’s men who were without a number of key starters. PSG supporters expected to see Hervin Ongenda, Presnel Kimpembe, and Jean-Kevin Augustin in a League Cup match against an undermanned Saint-Etienne team but PSG’s youngsters didn’t even make the bench. Salvatore Sirigu did make the starting XI, much to the delight of the Parc faithful, and played very well in what will likely be his last match in the French capital as he’s expected to depart the club in the January transfer window.
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) December 16, 2015
The match, much like a lot of PSG performances here lately, was a tale of two halves. The first 45 minutes saw the Ligue 1 leaders retain most of the possession, 86 percent after 16 minutes, but do little with the ball. The standout moment came in the 25th minute though. Zlatan Ibrahimovic reacted quickly to a failed clearance by the Saint-Etienne defense and acrobatically fired a shot on goal that ultimately hit the crossbar.
After more of the same after halftime, Blanc brought on Angel Di Maria and Edinson Cavani in the 62nd minute and you could see improvement in the PSG attack almost immediately. The Argentine especially opened the game up with a superb display of passing ability and some world class skill on the ball as show here:
Cavani did eventually get his goal but not before frustrating fans with his inability to finish clear chances. Di Maria gift wrapped a sublime pass that was just begging the Uruguayan to bury into the net but instead, Cavani lifted it over the crossbar and you could hear the Parc let out a collective groan. El Matador ultimately made up for his errors and scored a well-taken goal, assisted by Di Maria (his fourth in two games), but you certainly would expect more consistency from a €64.5 million player against Saint-Etienne.
The game, which was the last for PSG at the Parc des Princes this year, lacked the fireworks we saw against Olympique Lyonnais but there were still plenty of positives to take away heading into 2016. Marco Verratti seems to be back to full fitness after his injury, Ibrahimovic—at age 34—is still one of the best strikers in the world, and every time Di Maria touches the ball something good inevitably happens.
Les Parisiens face Caen in their final Ligue 1 match of 2015 on Saturday at the Stade Michel d’Ornano. Check back after the match for our thoughts on the game and follow us on Twitter for live commentary.