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May 10, 2014

Blanc celebrates contract in style as PSG break records in Lille

Paris Saint-Germain finished the season in style, smashing two records in a 3-1 win over Lille at Stade Pierre Mauroy on Saturday. The French champions have set a new all-time record Ligue 1 points total of 86 -- and can stretch that further with a final-day win over Montpellier -- bettering Olympique Lyonnais' previous best of 84 set in 2005-06. PSG have also beaten their own previous benchmark of 25 victories in a single Championnat season with their 26th success of an excellent campaign.

Although Laurent Blanc's men did not despatch third-place Lille with their usual authority, les Parisiens did take their chances clinically when they arrived. Marquinhos set them on their way to the 3-1 victory -- only PSG's second win in 15 attempts in northern France -- with an excellent follow-up header on 41 minutes after compatriot Lucas Moura's initial shot was saved by LOSC goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.

The PSG No. 29 doubled the capital club's advantage in the second half, capping a fine counterattacking move after 65 minutes, before Blaise Matuidi added a brilliant third with eight minutes left. Lille's Jonathan Delaplace grabbed a deserved consolation goal for Lille with minutes remaining -- the hosts capitalising after Marco Verratti was naïvely caught in possession on his own byline -- but it was to be PSG's night. 

However, the occasion was soured by the ankle injury suffered by the visitors' former LOSC man Yohan Cabaye. Marvin Martin was dismissed with a straight red card for a rash challenge on his fellow French international after 37 minutes and Cabaye was stretchered off, distraught at the possibility of missing the World Cup in Brazil this summer.

It was that one-man advantage that gave PSG the edge that they needed at Stade Pierre Mauroy and Blanc's men wasted little time in making that difference count.

Lucas -- who was exquisite all night for les Parisiens -- saw his effort well saved initially by Enyeama after a perfectly weighted pass from captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but Marquinhos had charged forward from his less preferred role at right-back to nod past the Nigerian international. That involvement in the opener then seemed to set the tone for Moura's evening. Fresh from being overlooked by Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari for the host nation's final 23-man squad, the 21-year-old was playing with renewed desire and purpose.

Lucas was on hand to drill home with a clinical finish from Javier Pastore's pass -- the Argentine's first league assist of the season in his 28th appearance -- to cap an incisive, sweeping counterattack to deliver the sucker punch to a Lille side that had been in the ascendancy up until that point. His assist for Matuidi's third topped that though; getting the better of Marko Basa and Simon Kjaer before releasing the French international to finish calmly.

Although it has come too late to help him to secure a place on the plane to Brazil with the rest of his Selecao teammates, it is the sort of form that Lucas now needs to try to replicate next season. If he can do that, then he will surely become indispensable to Blanc. As it is, the South American star still has 10 league assists to his name and is only behind Monaco's James Rodriguez and PSG teammate Ibrahimovic in the overall standings.

The other major positive of the night is the fact that Cabaye's injury does not seem to be as serious as was first feared.

Both Blanc and PSG club doctor Eric Rolland confirmed that the former Lille man has not fractured his ankle and also expressed their belief that the French international's World Cup chances are not at risk, despite looking distraught after Martin's ill-timed challenge. His Ligue 1 season is likely over, but it would have been a cruel blow for the 28-year-old to cap a disappointing start to his PSG career with a World Cup-ending injury in a rare starting appearance against his ex-employers.

Although it was a far from flawless performance, Blanc's men did well considering the absences they had to cope with for the game. With no Thiago Silva, Edinson Cavani, Gregory van der Wiel or Christophe Jallet, the side fared well in the face of a motivated Lille outfit still chasing UEFA Champions League qualification.

The new all-time Ligue 1 points total record is now secured and it was done with a game to spare. PSG can extend that sum further with a win over Montpellier and possibly open up a final 10-point gap over Monaco, one that would more accurately reflect the champions’ domestic dominance this season than the current seven-point margin between the two.