It took Paris Saint-Germain an hour to score against fourth tier ES Wasquehal but Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s header was the difference as the reigning Coupe de France champions opened their title defense with a 1-0 victory at the Stadium Lille Metropole in the round of 64 on Sunday.
Laurent Blanc left eight first team players in Paris for this glorified training session and instead, Le President opted for a more youthful starting XI while experimenting with Benjamin Stambouli in the center back position—leaving Marquinhos on the bench. With speculation regarding the Brazilian’s future with the club starting to get louder, I thought this was a curious move by Blanc.
PSG XI vs. Wasquehal: Sirigu – Aurier, Stambouli, Kimpembe, Kurzawa – Rabiot, Motta, Verratti, Matuidi – Ibrahimovic (c), Augustin. #ESWPSG
— Jonathan Johnson (@Jon_LeGossip) January 3, 2016
Wasquehal should be applauded for their effort. Despite conceding most of the possession to PSG, the amateur club defended well and made the Ligue 1 leaders work for everything.
We are happy for them [Wasquehal]. They performed very well. They must be proud of what they did.—Blaise Matuidi
For Paris Saint-Germain though, it was a dismal performance full of wasted scoring chances, a vintage Salvatore Sirigu drop, and a lack of urgency. In the first 45 minutes alone, Jean-Kevin Augustin and Ibrahimovic could have scored a goal each but failed to do so—Ibrahimovic’s miss the most egregious of the two. The big Swede eventually made up for his error in the 60th minute when he used his height to leap over the Wasquehal goalie and two defenders to reach Marco Verratti’s cross into the box and score with the back of his head.
The man of the match for PSG has to be Verratti. Not only did he assist the only goal, but his ability to dribble past defenders and find teammates in space stood out in a game that lacked a lot of quality. The Italy international is expected to sign a new contract to keep him at the Parc des Princes and with Bayern Munich and Barcelona sniffing around he can’t sign on the dotted line soon enough.
Unfortunately, Augustin was the most disappointing of the PSG starters. Coming off a goal against Inter Milan in a friendly just a few days ago, the 18-year-old failed to impress—wasting scoring chances and failing to pick out Ibrahimovic in the box late in the game for what would have been an easy goal for the Swede. The Frenchman will want game time in both cup and league matches in 2016 but performances like this show how far he still has to go.
It’s difficult to read too much into a game like this. Playing amateurs on the road with a rotated squad, Paris Saint-Germain did what they had to do to win. Nothing more, nothing less. The team returns to the Parc this Friday for a Ligue 1 match against SC Bastia and many of the regular starters are expected to be available. We’ll see then if there is any winter break rust or if the team is ready to resume their dominating form from 2015.