PSG beats Reims 3-0 to move closer to league title
PARIS (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc rested key players and still saw his team take a step closer to a second straight French title after coasting to a 3-0 win against Reims on Saturday.
With Tuesday’s Champions League quarterfinal second leg against Chelsea in mind, Blanc made eight changes to his lineup from the team that beat Chelsea 3-1 on Wednesday night, with Yohan Cabaye and Adrien Rabiot coming into midfield, and Jeremy Menez given a rare appearance on the right wing.
Edinson Cavani, meanwhile, made the most of a rare start in his favored center forward position, scoring his 15th league goal of the season as PSG moved provisionally 16 points clear of second-placed Monaco, which hosts Nantes on Sunday.
“Like all the matches that come before a Champions League match, this one wasn’t easy to prepare before going to Chelsea,” Blanc said. “We will be champions, but we’re not there yet, so we can’t say when it will be.”
Cavani has been unhappy playing in a position wide on the right this season, but with Zlatan Ibrahimovic facing several weeks out after tearing the back of his right thigh against Chelsea, he will now get several games as striker.
“It’s always important for a striker to get goals,” Blanc said. “I’d be happier if he’d scored another one, but he’s getting back to his best, little by little. I’m not worried about him, he’s always scored goals.”
In the 43rd minute, Cavani timed his run well to meet right back Gregory Van der Wiel’s cross and poke the ball past goalkeeper Kossi Agassa for his 22nd goal of the season in all competitions. The Uruguay forward had not scored in his previous five games.
“All we did was defend, and that’s not enough,” Reims defender Anthony Weber said. “PSG are much better than us and there’s nothing you can say about it.”
PSG’s other two goals were own goals from Aissa Mandi in the second half.
The first in the 48th was not his fault as he scrambled to stop Brazilian winger Lucas’ header from going over the line following a well-weighted cross from left back Lucas Digne to the back post.
Mandi was to blame for the second, however, showing the instincts of a center forward — except at the wrong end — to unintentionally plant a cross from PSG winger Ezequiel Lavezzi into the top corner of the net in the 89th.
Monaco can reduce PSG’s lead to 13 points if it wins on Sunday. But after that there will be only six matches remaining and PSG is almost certain to retain its league title.
“The coach rested players because we have important games,” Rabiot said. “We now need to look ahead to Chelsea’s game, which we know will be very hard.”
Lille, meanwhile, strengthened its grip on third place with a 2-1 win at Toulouse, despite having defenders Franck Beria and Pape Souare sent off in quick succession midway through the second half.
Forwards Nolan Roux and Salomon Kalou grabbed a goal each to put Lille 2-1 up before halftime, before Ivory Coast right back Sergie Aurier pulled a goal back for Toulouse in injury time with his sixth league goal of the season.
The win means Lille is provisionally six points clear of Saint-Etienne, which hosts Nice on Sunday.
Also Saturday, it was: Bastia 2, Sochaux 2; Bordeaux 2, Rennes 2; Guingamp 1, Montpellier 2, and Lorient 1, Evian 1.
Seventh-place Bordeaux led 2-0 through forwards Guillaume Hoarau and Diego Rolan, but Rennes earned a point thanks to goals from midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure and winger Romain Alessandrini.
Relegation battlers Sochaux are in 19th place after also throwing away a 2-0 lead.
Ghana forward Jordan Ayew and right back Sebastien Corchia scored late in the first half, but Bastia fought back with goals from Belgian forward Gianni Bruno and former France striker Djibril Cisse.
On Friday, Ghana winger Andre Ayew scored a hat trick as Marseille beat last-placed Ajaccio 3-1 to move provisionally level with Lyon in fifth place ahead of Lyon’s trip to Valenciennes on Sunday.