PSG returns to French league comfort zone with 5-2 home win
PARIS (AP) — After falling short in the Champions League, Paris Saint-Germain returned to its French league comfort zone and beat Strasbourg 5-2 on Saturday.
Edinson Cavani netted twice, and Julian Draxler, Angel Di Maria, and Neymar also scored to ensure PSG stayed 12 points clear of second-place Monaco at the top.
But not without a fright.
Strasbourg took the lead in the sixth minute and pulled back to 3-2 as PSG continued to show alarming signs of weakness at the back. Strasbourg had a late goal incorrectly ruled out for offside after PSG’s defense was again easily breached, although it was already 5-2 by then.
PSG lost at Real Madrid 3-1 on Wednesday in the first leg of the last 16. The way PSG capitulated by giving away two late goals heaped pressure on coach Unai Emery over his team selection.
“The atmosphere was a bit tense. That’s normal,” Cavani said. “We have to look forward now. We played well today, although at times we could have been better.”
Emery was booed by sections of the home crowd when his name was announced over the loudspeaker before the game. Later, Cavani stopped short of giving Emery his personal backing when asked if the under-fire coach has the full support of the players.
“We’re a team and big teams stick together in the important moments,” Cavani said. “That’s the only way you can win.”
Strasbourg beat PSG at home in December, and stunned the crowd at Parc des Princes by taking the lead when midfielder Jean-Eudes Aholou was left completely unmarked near the penalty spot.
PSG hit back hard and was 3-1 up after 23 minutes thanks to Draxler, Di Maria and Neymar’s 19th in 19 league games.
Stephane Bahoken scored against PSG for the second time this season after a quick counterattack. Strasbourg poured forward but the hope didn’t last for long.
Cavani gave PSG some breathing space with an assured finish in the 72nd, clipping the ball over goalkeeper Alexandre Oukidja, then lobbed him for his league-leading 23rd goal.
“It was important to win after Wednesday’s match. We have to get our fans ready for the games to come against Marseille (next weekend) and Real Madrid,” Emery said. “We have to show we can maintain this level of play against better sides, with all due respect to Strasbourg.”
To celebrate Chinese New Year, PSG players’ names were written in Mandarin on the back of their shirts and a Chinese dragon paraded around the pitch. PSG says it has 1.3 million Chinese followers.
In order to better serve the soccer market in Asia, the league match between Nice and PSG on March 18 has been moved forward to 1 p.m. local time (1200 GMT).
Marseille players will also have their names in Mandarin for Sunday’s home game against Bordeaux at Stade Velodrome. Marseille recently launched an account on Chinese social media site Weibo.
Striker Giovanni Sio’s second-half equalizer gave Montpellier the point it needed to take fifth place after drawing with Guingamp 1-1.
Two goals from newly signed striker Diafra Sakho gave Rennes a 2-2 draw at Caen, which missed two penalties.
Saint-Etienne won at Angers 1-0, Troyes beat last-place Metz 1-0, and Amiens drew with Toulouse 0-0 in another relegation scrap.
In Sunday’s other games, fourth-place Lyon goes to Lille, and Nice hosts Nantes.