- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 5, 2014

PARIS (AP) - Edinson Cavani scored after just 57 seconds as Paris Saint-Germain beat Apoel Nicosia 1-0 on Wednesday in a scrappy game to reach the last 16 of the Champions League.

The striker’s fourth goal in as many games threatened to spark a rout, but PSG ultimately flattered to deceive.

With injured striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic watching from the stands, Cavani also hit the post while Brazilian winger Lucas spurned other first-half chances.

But the well-organized Cypriot side defended resolutely and PSG’s performance became disjointed as the game wore on.

“We deserved to win by a bigger margin, and we should have scored more,” PSG coach Laurent Blanc said. “We were a bit clumsy but we did what we needed to do.”

PSG, unbeaten so far this season, has not lost at home in European competition since Nov. 2006 and tops Group F with 10 points -one more than Barcelona, which won 2-0 away to Ajax thanks to two goals from Argentina star Lionel Messi.

“Hopefully we can finish top of the group, because that’s an advantage, even if it’s a small one,” Blanc said. “The fact we’re not conceding goals is a big advantage in the Champions League, and what I saw tonight reassured me that we’re very solid at the back.”

Ibrahimovic is nursing a heel injury and hopes to be fit to face league leader Marseille on Sunday.

Cavani started at center forward, flanked by Ezequiel Lavezzi and Javier Pastore.

Having scored a last-gasp winner away to Apoel two weeks ago, it was the total opposite this time - with a well-taken effort signaling the Uruguay forward’s return to form after some poor early-season performances.

Full back Gregory van der Wiel broke down the right and picked out Cavani just inside the penalty area. With his back to goal, he flicked the ball up, spun and hit a firm shot that goalkeeper Urko Pardo fumbled, as the ball slipped through his fingers and rolled over the line.

Apoel missed its only chance to level in the 12th minute when midfielder Nuno Morais whacked a shot high over the bar after goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu had beaten away a header from midfielder Vinicius.

After a brief spell of neat possession from Apoel, PSG exposed the visitors’ weak left flank.

Pastore released Lucas after a quick one-two and, from his curling cross, Cavani beat Pardo with a stooping header that hit the right post. The rebound fell to Lavezzi but, with Pastore getting in his way, he was unable to shoot.

Lucas saw his angled shot skim just past the left post in the 27th, and soon after he left three defenders in his wake as he burst from midfield before forcing Pardo into a low save.

Apoel looked lively at times going forward, only to lose possession too easily.

“This is our worst performance of the group stage,” Apoel coach Giorgis Donis said through a translator. “We can’t feel sad about it because we didn’t deserve anything. We conceded an early goal and lost our concentration.”

From one failed attack, Pastore carved a hole in midfield and released Matuidi, who then touched the ball on to Cavani, bearing down from the right. But Cavani hesitated, decided against shooting, and then lost his footing as he tried rounding Pardo.

With only 64 seconds played of the second half, Cavani almost repeated the his first-half trick but fluffed his shot from the near the penalty spot and, three minutes later, his curling effort went wide of the upright.

“His goal was the least easy chance he had,” Blanc said. “He’s a lad who’ll always score goals but he’s also lacking a bit of spontaneity in front of goal.”

Lucas then tried jinking his way to goal, but got the ball tangled up in his feet after trying to beat a third defender, and the crowd’s frustration was audible when Cavani hit a shot well over after Pastore’s cut-back from the right.

Pastore had the next go and saw his effort saved as he tried to dink the ball over Pardo from a tight angle.

Cavani should have done much better with 10 minutes remaining, swiping a shot wide and then substitute Jean-Christophe Bahebeck saw his shot charged down in the last minute.

Although PSG was rarely troubled, this performance was not one to send fear into Europe’s other big clubs.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide