PSG defence stellar at both ends in Coupe de France triumph
Defending champions Paris Saint-Germain are into the semifinals of the Coupe de France after a 3-1 win away at AS Saint-Etienne on Wednesday.
Coming off the back of last Sunday's 2-1 defeat away at Olympique Lyonnais -- which ended Les Parisiens' unbeaten run in Ligue 1 -- Laurent Blanc's men were much improved and had done most of the job by half-time at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard.
Edinson Cavani opened the scoring for PSG after just 12 minutes, slotting home from an inventive Zlatan Ibrahimovic through ball. Marquinhos then doubled the capital outfit's lead 10 minutes before half-time, tapping in from close range after El Matador got a subtle touch on a cross from the Sweden international.
Saint-Etienne were handed a lifeline with a sloppy penalty conceded by Layvin Kurzawa and scored by Valentin Eysseric, but a superb solo effort from Lucas Moura in the final minute made sure that the Ligue 1 leaders' name was in the hat for the semifinals.
All that stands between PSG and a second Coupe de France final in as many years are FC Lorient, who will host the French champions at Stade du Moustoir just before PSG meet Lille OSC at Stade de France for the Coupe de la Ligue final.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Salvatore Sirigu, 6 -- Given his customary domestic cup start, the Italy international enjoyed a relatively quiet night. Although beaten by Eysseric's penalty, the 29-year-old was hardly tested otherwise and just had to deal with a few high balls into the box.
DF Marquinhos, 7 -- Despite playing in his secondary position of right-back, the Brazil international put in a solid performance and capped it with PSG's second goal. The 21-year-old tapped in an Ibrahimovic cross -- via Cavani -- at one end and helped to keep things tight at the other.
DF Thiago Silva, 7 -- After a nightmarish display in the 2-1 defeat away at Lyon, the Brazilian was back to something closer to his brilliant best. The 31-year-old did not have to be at his highest level to deal with the Saint-Etienne attack, but one superb piece of defending from the captain late on sticks in the memory.
DF David Luiz, 6 -- Like his central defensive partner Silva, the 28-year-old was much improved from the Lyon loss. However, the Brazil international did not have too much to do and enjoyed a relatively straightforward outing.
DF Layvin Kurzawa, 5 -- Although he did well going forward at times, the Frenchman was let down by the silly penalty he conceded for a foul on Kevin Malcuit. The 23-year-old needs to avoid diving in like that in future.
MF Thiago Motta, 6 -- The Italian was poor in the defeat away at Lyon, but much better in Saint-Etienne. The 33-year-old looked more like his usual self with Blaise Matuidi alongside him and the midfield was less cumbersome, even after Benjamin Stambouli came on to replace the France international.
MF Adrien Rabiot, 6 -- The France under-21 international was wretched in the Lyon defeat, but much better here. The 20-year-old's only blemish on his 79-minute outing was a booking.
MF Blaise Matuidi, 6 -- Up until his 67th minute substitution, with what looked like an injury, the France international was solid and immediately improved the midfield from the Lyon defeat. The 28-year-old brought his trademark drive and energy to the starting XI and his potential injury will concern Blanc.
FW Javier Pastore, 5 -- The Argentina international's first 90-minute match since returning from a lengthy injury lay-off was difficult. The South American showed a few glimpses of magic and he also hit the post in the second half, but the 26-year-old is still some way off optimum match fitness.
FW Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 7 -- Although he did not score his almost customary goal against Saint-Etienne, the super Swede still played a decisive role. It was the 34-year-old's through ball that provided Cavani's opener and it was the talismanic striker's cross that ultimately led to Marquinhos' goal.
FW Edinson Cavani, 6 -- Another player who disappointed in the Lyon loss, the Uruguay international was much improved against Saint-Etienne. The 29-year-old took his goal well and his subtle touch on Ibrahimovic's low cross helped the ball to Marquinhos for PSG's second.
MF Benjamin Stambouli, 5 -- Sent on to replace Matuidi after 67 minutes, the Frenchman contributed little after a yellow card almost immediately after entering the pitch.
MF Maxwell, NR -- Introduced in place of Rabiot with 11 minutes left, the veteran Brazilian helped to shore up the midfield in one of his more unfamiliar positions.
FW Lucas Moura, NR -- Given just three minutes when he replaced Cavani late on, the Brazil international still managed to influence proceedings. The 23-year-old scored a fine solo goal in the last minute of normal time, likely ensuring that he remains ahead of the Uruguayan for a place in the starting XI away at Chelsea next week.
Jonathan Johnson is based in Paris and the voice of PSG TV. He also writes for French Football Weekly. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.