French giants Paris Saint-Germain, inspired by four stunning Zlatan Ibrahimovic goals, turned on the style Sunday to beat Troyes 9-0 and clinch a fourth consecutive Ligue 1 crown in record time.
Just four days after advancing to the Champions League quarter-finals, PSG wrapped up the club’s sixth French title with eight games to spare by beating a Troyes side destined for an immediate return to the second tier.
Laurent Blanc’s men obliterated the French record for the quickest league victory, currently held by Lyon who won the 2007 title under Gerard Houllier with five games to go.
Unlike last season when Paris waited until late March to take over top spot, the capital club have set the pace uninterrupted since beating Gazelec Ajaccio 2-0 in their second game of the campaign.
Three goals in six early first-half minutes settled PSG’s nerves at Troyes’ sun-kissed Stade de l’Aube.
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First up was Edinson Cavani, the Uruguyan capitalizing on a poor back pass to sneak in to beat goalkeeper Matthieu Dreyer on the second attempt.
Pastore made it 2-0 shortly after, a David Luiz interception played quickly to Ibrahimovic, whose sublime backheel found the Argentinian who toe-poked a looped finish past a despairing Dreyer.
No sooner had the game been restarted than Adrien Rabiot was the welcome recipient for PSG’s third after following up on a Cavani shot that rebounded off Dreyer.
– Ibrahimovic –
It was then time for Ibrahimovic to take centre stage in 10 magical minutes.
The towering Swede made it 4-0 just seconds into the second-half after Cavani intercepted another poor clearance, “Ibra” gifted too much space on the edge of the box and making no mistake as he drilled the ball low into the left-hand corner.
Ibrahimovic’s second was a gem, a first-time mid-air volley of an inch-perfect Angel di Maria cross as PSG swamped Troyes.
His third — and 100th in Ligue 1 action — was equally sublime, the 34-year-old Swede meeting a Layvin Kurzawa cross at full speed and unleashing a blinding right-footed shot that swerved into the far corner of the net.
Matthieu Saunier compounded Troyes’ woes with an own goal, while Lossemy Karaboue saw red for hauling Cavani down in the box with 16 minutes to play.
Dreyer did well to save Cavani’s penalty, but the striker tapped in at the second bite.
It was left to Ibrahimovic to wrap up the 9-0 rout, the striker showing great strength to ride a tackle and unleash an unstoppable shot after a Pastore through-ball.
“I’m very lucky to play with good players,” a modest Ibrahimovic said, walking off with the ball wedged under his arm. “The referee gave it to me!”
The Ligue 1 title was the fourth time Blanc has won it as a manager having also guided Bordeaux to the 2008-09 title.
The gulf in class has never been more apparent since Qatar Sports Investments purchased PSG in the summer of 2011, in what has become a landmark moment in French football.
With a budget of close to 500 million euros ($558 million), PSG’s financial supremacy has enabled them to spring well clear of the rest of the competition in Ligue 1 and render last year’s keenly-contested title race a distant memory.
PSG have set records tumbling this term and surpassed Nantes’ 32-game unbeaten run set during the 1994-95 campaign, only for a 2-1 defeat at Lyon last month to end their sequence at 36 matches and with it any hopes of earning the invincibles tag.
But PSG’s ambitions go beyond simply retaining the league title, with the club also through to the League Cup final on April 23 and set to face Lorient four days earlier for a place in the French Cup showpiece as they seek to defend last year’s historic treble.
However, conquering Europe represents the top priority for a squad assembled at vast expense, the arrival of Di Maria for 63 million euros last August merely providing further ammunition as PSG attempt to trade blows with the continent’s heavyweights.
How PSG fare next month will go a long way to determining how successfully their season is portrayed, with Blanc’s side due to play the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie on April 5-6 ahead of the return fixture a week later.
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