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Ibrahimovic sends PSG into League Cup final

February 4, 2014

PARIS (AP) — Star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice as Paris Saint-Germain withstood a tough challenge from Nantes to win 2-1 and reach the League Cup final on Tuesday.

After the home side had equalized through defender Olivier Veigneau in the 81st minute, Ibrahimovic was left totally unmarked to head home Brazilian winger Lucas’ cross in the last minute for his 31st goal of another prolific season.

His first goal, which came in the fifth minute, followed an error by Nantes goalkeeper Remy Riou, whose botched clearance fell to Ibrahimovic some 30 meters from goal. The Sweden striker’s finish was outstanding as he lobbed the ball straight back over Riou’s head without breaking stride.

“I think the Nantes players changed their way of playing. They didn’t play at all in the first half and they were right to change their approach because they caused us problems playing higher up the pitch in the second half,” PSG coach Laurent Blanc said. “But I like the way the players reacted after Nantes equalized. They didn’t want to go to extra time.”

PSG will play the winner of Wednesday’s semifinal between former seven-time French champion Lyon and second division Troyes.

After thrashing Nantes 5-0 at home in the league last month, PSG again started brightly, with Ezequiel Lavezzi hitting the post for PSG after midfielder Blaise Matuidi pulled the ball back for him. A minute later, PSG went ahead.

Lavezzi, whose finishing is erratic, missed another chance in the 30th when he shot straight at Riou. Nantes almost scored straight after when Papy Djilobodji’s header was cleared off the line by midfielder Marco Verratti, although the ball appeared to hit his arm.

Nantes had another claim for a penalty turned down after striker Filip Djordjevic’s shirt was pulled by center back Thiago Silva as he went for a header. Nantes president Waldemar Kita argued vehemently with referee Laurent Duhamel at halftime.

The match became increasingly heated in the second half, with both teams making some hefty challenges.

Djordjevic was a permanent threat for PSG’s defense and he went close with a free kick in the 68th when his curling effort just missed the top right corner.

Nantes was rewarded for its perseverance when substitute Itay Shechter, making his debut after joining on loan from Hapoel Tel Aviv, set up Veigneau, and the left back’s shot easily beat Nicolas Douchez, PSG’s reserve goalie.

But three Nantes defenders failed to pick up Ibrahimovic and his firm downward header sent PSG into the final.

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