Ibrahimovic scores header as PSG wins 1-0 at Toulouse
PARIS (AP) — Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a late header as runaway leader Paris Saint-Germain overcame a poor first half to beat Toulouse 1-0 and move provisionally 23 points clear at the top of the French league on Saturday.
Lurking near the back post, Ibrahimovic lost his marker on a corner to nod in from close range in the 73rd minute for his league-leading 16th goal.
Moments earlier, he was fortunate not to be booked for diving after theatrically tumbling inside the penalty area.
Chasing a fourth straight title, PSG has won 18 and drawn three of 21 games to completely crush the competition, but this was not a convincing performance against a side placed 19th.
“Toulouse caused us problems on every counterattack,” PSG coach Laurent Blanc said. “At halftime, I told my players that we also need to win games like this. When you’re dominating it’s easy, but this wasn’t the case.”
Toulouse went close to scoring when striker Wissam Ben Yedder struck the crossbar with a rasping drive in the first half.
The sides meet again in the French Cup in Paris on Tuesday, and Blanc has a growing injury list. Already without winger Angel di Maria and center half Thiago Silva, Blanc watched midfielder Javier Pastore and defender Marquinhos limp off.
“It’s a calf strain,” Pastore said. “It’s not serious but I preferred to come off before it became worse.”
Ben Yedder had eight goals in his past five games, and caused problems throughout with his sharp movement.
Shortly after his header was saved by goalkeeper Kevin Trapp in the first half, he collected a long pass from forward Martin Braithwaite, toyed with PSG center back David Luiz, and struck a powerful shot against the bar.
But PSG improved after the break.
Its goal came when Lucas floated over a corner, Luiz rose to head the ball firmly down, and Ibrahimovic reacted quickly to place the ball under the body of 16-year-old goalie Alban Lafont.
Lafont did better in injury time when he made a fine two-handed save to beat away Ibrahimovic’s powerful free kick from 30 meters.
Meanwhile, Rennes moved up to fifth place after a 4-2 win at last-place Troyes, with defender Fallou Diagne scoring two penalties in the first half.
In other games, it was: Guingamp 2, Nantes 2; Bordeaux 1, Lille 0; Bastia 1, Montpellier 0, and Gazelec Ajaccio 2, Reims 2.
Monaco can trim PSG’s huge lead to 21 points and climb up to second place if it wins at Lorient on Sunday — when struggling Marseille faces Normandy side Caen and Saint-Etienne hosts bitter local rival Lyon.
No Lyon supporters are allowed because of the high risk of incidents between rival fans.
Angers lost 2-1 away to third-place Nice on Friday.