Ibrahimovic hat-trick sparks PSG rout
Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic fired a superb hat-trick to take his league leading scoring tally to 17 goals as Paris Saint-Germain closed within two points of leaders Lyon with a clinical 4-0 victory over Valenciennes here on Tuesday.
Elsewhere, Nice climbed to joint seventh place as they beat nine-man Rennes 1-0, thanks to a 66th minute penalty from Argentine striker Dario Cvitanich, ending a four game winning streak for the Brittany side.
Ibrahimovic, the former Barcelona, AC Milan and Inter Milan striker, was in inspirational form as he opened the scoring on 29 minutes before two second-half goals put the result beyond doubt and gave the capital side the ideal preparation for the visit of Lyon on Sunday.
It was the sixth time this season that the Swedish 31-year-old captain has scored two goals or more in the same match.
Valenciennes were the dominant team from the kick-off and piled pressure on the PSG back four that resulted in Italian 'keeper Salvatore Sirigu having to intervene on several occasions.
The capital side weathered the early storm and forced the opening goal on 29 minutes thanks to an inspirational pass from Javier Pastore that split the home defence wide open.
His angled pass down the right wing found Jeremy Menez whose shot was parried by Nicolas Penneteau, but it eventually fell to Ibrahimovic, who skilfully redirected the ball past the Valenciennes 'keeper.
Three minutes after the break, Menez again was the provider as Pastore fed the Frenchman down the left flank and when Penneteau could only push the ball in front of goal, Ibrahimovic gratefully swept home the rebound.
The lively Menez was at the heart of the third PSG goal when the French international stole in behind the defence, before intelligently squaring the ball for the big Swede to easily tap home his third goal in 53 minutes.
As the home side pushed up in a bid to get back into the game, Ezequiel Lavezzi took advantage of that, going on a 40 yard run that had Valenciennes at sixes and sevens and he tucked the ball away for his second league goal of the season.
PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti said that his side had performed well as they recorded their third successive win inside a week.
"After two matches at home, it was a good test for us to show our mentality away from home at a difficult stadium," said Ancelotti, who was under pressure at the beginning of the month after a poor run of form.
"Valenciennes have played well their last few matches at home but we showed good mentality and a good attitude. It was a good performance," added the 53-year-old.
Rennes were trying to make it five wins on the trot away from home as coach Frederic Antonetti took on his former club, now coached by Claude Puel, who had seen his side lose just once this season at home.
A tight match swung the way of the home side 20 minutes into the second half when substitute Yassine Jebbour was shown a straight red card after being on the pitch for just five minutes following a foul on Eric Bautheac.
Cvitanic, who won the 2011 and 2012 Dutch titles with Ajax before signing with Nice, stepped up to send Benoit Costil the wrong way from the spot and hand the home side maximum points with his eighth goal of the campaign.
In the late game second half goals from Marko Basa and Dimitri Payet earned Lille a 2-0 home win in their middle of the table tie against Toulouse.