Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) striker Zlatan Ibrahimović showed what the World Cup will be missing with a virtuoso display in his side’s 4-0 away victory at Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League. The Swede netted a brace in a win that almost certainly puts PSG into the quarter-final. The Bundesliga side need to score four and avoid conceding just to take the game to extra-time at Parc des Princes in the second leg.
The French champions flew out of the blocks and fired in the opener within three minutes as Blaise Matuidi collected a beautiful pass from Marco Verratti to make it 1-0. Ibrahimović then converted a 39th minute penalty to add his name to the score sheet. However, the best was yet to come. Just before the break, a halfhearted clearance from the Leverkusen defense allowed the Swede to unleash a rocket from the edge of the box to make it 3-0.
Things went from bad to worse for Leverkusen when Bosnia and Herzegovina defender Emir Spahić was dismissed for a second bookable offense. PSG then added insult to injury new signing Yohan Cabaye comprehensively made it 4-0. The Germans are no strangers to being heavily-beaten at home 5-0 by Manchester United in the group stages.
Nevertheless, PSG will have sent shock waves through Europe with this victory as they have been underdogs in the competition. Despite the fact they have seemingly endless wealth to recruit big names, the general feeling is players go there for a big pay day and play against weak opposition in Ligue 1. Although fellow rich club Monaco provide competition, the French league is not considered to be in the same bracket as the English Premier League, Spain’s La Liga, Italy’s Serie A or Germany’s Bundesliga. This is visible by the fact teams from the latter leagues tend to advance a lot further than French sides in the Champions League. Last season saw an all-German final, with Bayern Munich beating Borussia Dortmund at Wembley to lift the cup with the big ears.
The game will also be memorable for PSG striker Ibrahimović who put on a virtuoso display in the match. The Swede has be much-maligned for his decision to move to Paris because people think he should be playing top teams every week instead of just making big money. However, he often replies by pointing to his medal haul in Italy and Spain, where he played for Juventus, the two Milan clubs and Barcelona respectively. In his opinion, he has nothing to prove.
However, the world will see an Ibrahimović-size hole in the World Cup as his Sweden side failed to get through their play-off match against a Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired Portugal in late 2013. Yet the Swede will not be thinking about that until the summer as right now he has helped put his side in with a great chance of reaching the last eight in European football’s elite clubs competition.
The question for PSG fans and their opponents is whether Swedish striker Ibrahimović can cap the 4-0 victory int the return tie with another virtuoso display to set tongues wagging.
By Robert Shepherd: