PARIS (AP) - Angel Di Maria curled in the first goal and Zlatan Ibrahimovic set up Edinson Cavani with a touch of brilliance for the other as Paris Saint-Germain opened its Champions League campaign with a 2-0 win against Malmo in Group A on Tuesday.
Di Maria, starting just his second game since joining from Manchester United, cut inside from the right in the fourth minute and steered the ball imperiously into the left corner.
Returning to the lineup after shaking off an abdominal injury, Ibrahimovic looked short on fitness and lacked his usual assurance in front of goal against the club where the Swede started his career in 1999.
“Now the dream came true. It is wonderful to play against your old team,” said the 33-year-old Ibrahimovic, who scored 16 league goals in 40 games for the Swedish side. “I was motivated, trust me, I wanted to score. But at the same time I’m still happy because we won.”
Instead of scoring, Ibrahimovic emphatically turned provider in the 61st, running onto a left-wing cross from Maxwell and acrobatically back-heeling the ball up to Cavani, who nodded down past goalkeeper Johan Wiland despite being off balance.
Malmo chose a defensive formation with three center halves and five midfielders, but it backfired as PSG forced a corner straight away and scored on the next attack.
Italy midfielder Marco Verratti collected the ball and clipped a floating pass behind the left back to pick out Di Maria, who controlled it well with his right foot and then cut inside before expertly curling the ball home.
Di Maria, signed from United for 63 million euros ($69 million), is the player PSG hopes will carry it further in Europe after it went out at the quarterfinal stage to Barcelona 5-1 on aggregate last season.
“He is here to improve our game, he has great quality playing on the right or the left,” PSG coach Laurent Blanc said. “He can score a lot of goals, as you could see with his finish, and he can create them as well.”
After Di Maria’s goal, Ibrahimovic missed two chances in quick succession as PSG overwhelmed Malmo’s creaking defense.
First, he headed over when well placed in the 15th and two minutes later failed to properly test Wiland with a low shot after sprinting into the penalty area, although slightly wide on the right.
Di Maria looked far sharper and, in the 33rd, opened his left foot again to hit a curling effort just wide of the left post.
Malmo almost punished PSG a minute later when striker Nikola Djurdjic found space inside the area and drilled a low shot past the right post with Trapp beaten.
Ibrahimovic seemed desperate to score and, after debating for a few seconds with Di Maria as to who should take a free kick, curled it disappointingly over the crossbar in the 42nd.
Straight from the restart, Di Maria charged forward and switched the ball to Cavani on the left, but the pass was slightly behind the Uruguay striker, who scooped his shot way over.
Ibrahimovic then wasted another opportunity, hesitating with the ball at his feet on the edge of the area, and the far more dynamic Di Maria forced Wiland into a leaping save as PSG surged forward.
Having weather serious pressure, Malmo began to push forward more and enjoyed a brief spell of possession around the PSG box.
It was a brief respite and, after Maxwell had a shot saved, Ibrahimovic finally found some inspiration.
That spurred PSG on, and Wiland kept the score down when he palmed away another effort from Cavani moments later and then pushed a close-range header from David Luiz against the post.
After Di Maria went off to an ovation from the Parc des Princes crowd, substitute Ezequiel Lavezzi was denied by Wiland near the end.
Lavezzi then had a goal disallowed in injury time, with Cavani ruled to have strayed offside.
“We could have done better,” Blanc said. “We could have taken more of our chances.”
Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.