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PSG

Ibrahimovic bags double as PSG march on

Zlatan Ibrahimovic baged a double as PSG beat bogey team Saint Etienne in Paris on Sunday to continue their march towards the title. Elsewhere Monaco can thank the referee for their win over Lyon in a controversial match. Catch up on the latest Ligue 1 action.

Ibrahimovic bags double as PSG march on
Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates scoring for PSG against Saint Etienne. Photo: Franck Fife/AFP

Paris Saint Germain, fresh from progressing to the Champions League quarter-finals, capped a profitable week with a 2-0 win over Saint Etienne on Sunday.

The Ligue 1 leaders' closest rivals Monaco had earlier cut the gap to five points after a controversial 3-2 win over Lyon in a game where the referee subsequently admitted to mistakes on all three of Monaco's goals.

But PSG regained their eight-point cushion on Claudio Ranieri's side with superstar striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic putting the game to bed with two first half goals.

This latest stepping stone on what is becoming a relentless march to the French title extended PSG's unbeaten league run to 13 matches.

Coach Laurent Blanc brought back several players rested in midweek for the win against Bayer Leverkusen, including former St Etienne captain Blaise Matuidi.

St Etienne have developed a reputation as a bogey team for the French capital side but not on this occasion.

Ibrahimovic had PSG deservedly in front in the 14th minute, the Swedish striker rolling the ball in although St Etienne rounded on the referee claiming Matuidi had been offside.

The St Etienne goal continued to be the centre of attention as the hosts dominated, with Ibrahimovic doubling up four minutes from the break, prodding home Edinson Cavani's cross from the left having started the sweet move.

St Etienne emerged revitalised after the interval, Benjamin Corgnet thumping the ball into the side netting after Yohan Mollo's effort was blocked, then substitute Melvut Erding forcing PSG keeper Salvatore Sirigu
into producing a deft save.

PSG, who lost Yohan Cabaye to injury, the former Newcastle midfielder replaced by Marco Verrati, eventually managed to reassert themselves to hold out for the win and move closer to sealing the championship.

Earlier Monaco saw off Lyon in a contentious game marked by a series of dubious calls from the referee who later conceded all Monaco's goals resulted from off-side situations.

For Lyon this result ended a five-match unbeaten run in the league and the former multiple French champions remain in fifth place.

Lyon, for the third match in a row, conceded a goal in the opening 10 minutes, this time Valere Garmain inflicting the damage after four minutes.

This was the first of referee Freddy Fautrel's mistakes as Garmain was set up by Dimitar Berbatov's back pass, with the Bulgarian striker clearly offside.

James Rodriguez doubled up for Monaco who once again was sent on his way by Berbatov in an off-side position after a cross from the right from Mounir Obbadi.

A dozen minutes after the restart Berbatov, offside when he picked up a cross, scored from close range.

Lyon had pulled one back after the half hour when Miguel Lopes on the right flank found Jimmy Briand, who gave Lyon hope of salvaging a point with 12 minutes left on the clock with his second.

Fautrel held his hands up to a bad day at the office, declaring: "We (he and his assistants) recognise mistakes were made by the refereeing team – three goals were off-side.

"I've got other bad memories of course but tonight is a very bad memory for me and my colleagues."

Lyon coach Remi Garde said: "I'm disappointed that the players weren't rewarded for their enthusiasm and solidarity and courage.

"I'm not going to talk about the referee as I'd risk being banned."

Ranieri commented: "As for the refereeing I think it was very hard today for us and for Lyon. But when a team scores three goals away from home it deserves to win."

Montpellier held Bordeaux to a 1-1 draw in Sunday's other game.

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FOOTBALL

OPINION: Mbappé’s title, but PSG need to breathe new life into Qatari project

After being the star of France's 2018 World Cup triumph, Kylian Mbappé has been the standout player for Paris Saint-Germain in a Ligue 1 title-winning campaign that has been slightly marred by the manner in which they limped over the line.

OPINION: Mbappé's title, but PSG need to breathe new life into Qatari project
Photos AFP

PSG finally wrapped up the title on Sunday after second-placed Lille failed to beat Toulouse, having not won any of their previous three games when the opportunity to confirm a sixth French crown in seven seasons was there.

The Qatari-owned club can still make it a domestic double, with the French Cup final to come against Rennes next weekend, yet this will not be remembered as a vintage year.

While Neymar once again went missing due to injury at the crucial point, Edinson Cavani has struggled with fitness too, and coach Thomas Tuchel has regularly lashed out at the lack of depth in his squad.

The 5-1 capitulation at Lille a week ago was the worst league result for PSG since Qatar Sports Investments bought the club in 2011, and the first time they had let in five in a league game since 2000.

A record-breaking 14-match winning run with which they started the season now seems like a long time ago, the latest Champions League failure clouding Tuchel's first campaign in charge.

Mbappé, at least, has been a constant, revelling in his status as a World Cup winner and hardly ever being rested. He only turned 20 in December, but has now won three Ligue 1 titles in a row.

Mbappé has 36 goals in 40 games this season, with 30 in the league. And, frighteningly, his team-mate Daniel Alves told RMC recently that “he doesn't realise how good he is, he can go much further”.

He is also not used to losing, and may have upset some of his teammates with his assessment of last week's defeat at Lille. “We played like beginners,” he said.

Hollow ring

To be fair, they have usually been exceptional domestically. However, the problem is that as long as they keep failing in the Champions League, domestic success for a club backed by a Gulf state will continue to ring hollow.

The title has effectively been in the bag for some time, but their season has been winding down ever since their exit against Manchester United in the last 16.

That, combined with being knocked out in the League Cup quarter-finals, means Tuchel in his first season has actually done worse than Unai Emery, his unloved predecessor.

Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel has actually done worse than his predecessor, Unai Emery
However, according to sports daily L'Equipe, Tuchel has agreed to extend his contract to 2021. Thoughts have already turned to the future, with new signings needed at the Parc des Princes.

The costly Neymar experiment cannot be said to have succeeded until he stays fit for the games that matter, and there will always be speculation about his future.

“We have a contract, we're not even halfway through that contract,” Neymar's father pointed out to RMC Sport.

Time for a clear-out? 

Mbappé is the one man they really cannot afford to lose, but is it time for a clear-out elsewhere?

Some of the excitement of the early part of the decade has gone, replaced with a staleness. The days of Thiago Silva, Edinson Cavani and Marco Verratti are maybe ending.

Youri Djorkaeff, a World Cup winner for France and a PSG star in the 1990s, offers a frank assessment, suggesting real change is needed higher up.

“If you're not great in every compartment, from the bus driver to the girls who clean the shirts, you will go nowhere,” he told Ligue 1 Podcast, 'Le Beau Jeu'.

“Paris Saint-Germain, after many years without success, have to rebuild everything, restart from scratch, because the foundations are not good. You cannot expect to one day win the Champions League without these foundations.”

The Qatar project needs a breath of fresh air, and all eyes will be on president Nasser al-Khelaifi and sporting director Antero Henrique.

UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules remain a problem, though, with PSG said to have a hole of around 100 million euros and the need to present a balanced budget by the end of June. The next few months will be interesting.

By Andy Scott/AFP

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