Welcome to 2014, where Zlatan Ibrahimovic is still ‘The Zlatan’, something he reminded Nantes goalkeeper Remy Riou five minutes into today’s Coupe de la Ligue semifinal.
That’s where Paris Saint-Germain was in action on Tuesday, with early pressure from the Parisian attackers forcing the Nantes keeper into a clearance that could only euphemistically be called ill-advised. Playing Rafa Nadal to Riou’s ‘dude who should not play tennis against Rafa Nadal’, Ibra’s return sailed 30 yards before flexing the back of the net, cruising just under the crossbar and over a spawning Riou to give PSG an unlikely opening score.
Then again, was it really that unlikely? Given some of the other feats we’ve been Zlatan perform, today’s goal was relatively easy. It’s not like this is a scorpion kick around a diving defender (against Bologna six years ago) or a 30-yard bicycle kick to cap a four-goal day (against England last year).
Given who we’re talking about, there’s nothing unlikely about it. If you’re reading, Zlatan, I’m sorry I suggested otherwise.
Nantes would go on to pull the goal back nine minutes from time, resilience that only angered Ibra. In the 90th minute, Ibrahimovic’s second goal of the day gave PSG a 2-1 lead, putting Ligue 1’s leaders into the competition’s final.
Man of the Match: What does it say about a match when a man who played only 23 minutes takes this award? Probably not much, as it concerns the quality of the match, but Marseille forward Brandão became the different-maker when, seven minutes after coming on, he outmuscled Lyon defender Samuel Umtiti to a ball in the left of Hugo Lloris’s six-yard box. The Brazilian target man kept his left-footed shot low and, beating Lloris into the far side-netting, won Marseille’s third straight Coupe de la Ligue.
Packaged for takeaway:
- Brandão was the change that was begging to be made. For 97 minutes, head coaches Didier Deschamps (Marseille) and Remi Garde seemed (for some unknown reason) too scared of ruining their sides’ mediocre performances. Lyon was more capable but never really tested Steve Mandanda, while Marseille was more plucky than able. One tweak from either side could have swayed the match either way. The managers decided not to rock the raft.
- And in that way, this match was completely wasted by Garde. OL were always one, positive tweak away from breaking the game open. But Garde never made that tweak, and with only a very organized Marseille line (continuously drawing crucial offside calls) keeping OM in the match, the Lyon boss mistakenly waited for his opponent to capitulate. Against a team that hadn’t won in two months, you would have thought he’d have taken some initiative.
- After 105 minutes, Alexandre Lacazette finally came on for Kim Kallstrom. Garde needed to make that move a half-hour earlier. Instead, Lyon waited until they were down to put on their bench’s best attacking option.
- Though it’s only his first season with the club, it’s very difficult to look at a match like this and think Remi Garde is the right man for Lyon. He sits fourth in league (with top two talent), was seen out of Europe by Cypriot cinderella APOEL, and let the league cup slip through his fingers. A Coupe de France final against third division Quevilly gives Lyon one more route to silverware, but after seeing Garde allow Deschamps 97 minutes to win this match, you can’t help but ask questions.
- For that reason, Deschamps should be seen as lucky rather than good. With his team consistently able to get behind Anthony Réveillère on Lyon’s right, he needed one of Brandão or André-Pierre Gignac on the field to work in the penalty area. That the match was so tight and looked like it could be decided on a set piece was even more reason to make that tweak. Instead, Deschamps waited for extra time, when a ball from Marseille’s left led to the goal.
- The win was Marseille’s first since Feb.22, when they defeated Inter Milan 1-0 in the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 matchup. Though they sit ninth in Ligue 1, the trophy earns them spot in next year’s Europa League.
- As for Lyon, they have an easy Ligue run-in, one which could allow them to pass Lille for France’s final Champions League spot. They’ll need to bounce back from today’s result, something which may not be that difficult. They’re unlikely to be as frustrated by this performance as we were.