PSG count cost of ugly Bastia victory
Paris Saint-Germain registered their first Ligue 1 win of the season at the second attempt, beating SC Bastia 2-0 at Parc des Princes on Saturday. Lucas Moura and Edinson Cavani got the goals for the French champions, but the real talking points came with the early injury to star man Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the ugly altercation after the final whistle between PSG's Thiago Motta and the Corsicans' Brandao. The Swede was substituted after 15 minutes, complaining of a rib problem, and the Italian was left nursing a fractured nose after he was the victim of a brutal attack in the tunnel.
Although the afternoon ended positively with the French champions' first three-point haul of the season, it started badly. Inside of a quarter of an hour, Ibrahimovic went down after turning to avoid Bastia's El-Hadji Ba and was immediately left clutching his side. Several minutes after receiving some treatment, PSG coach Laurent Blanc made the sensible decision to withdraw the 32-year-old and instead sent on Ezequiel Lavezzi. Considering the form that Ibrahimovic has been in since returning to action, scoring eight goals in his last four games -- two of those in the 2-2 draw at Stade de Reims on opening day -- his potential absence could prove to be a major blow for le Championnat's titleholders over the coming weeks.
One thing Ibrahimovic's injury could do, though, is spur strike partner Cavani back into permanent life. The Uruguayan provided a timely reminder of exactly why les Parisiens paid such a princely sum for his services last summer by latching onto a quickly taken Marco Verratti free kick, snatching the chipped pass out of the air before finishing with aplomb. The 27-year-old seized his opportunity to impress in the Swede's absence and, although the severity of the PSG No. 10's injury will not be known until early next week, the chances are that Cavani will have to go it alone for the next game or two at least.
Based on how he performed without Ibrahimovic in the side toward the end of last season -- when Ibra was also injured -- El Matador has his work cut out if he wants to make a good impression this time around. Should Ibrahimovic be ruled out for a considerable period of time, though, this could prove to be the making of Cavani in the French capital.
Another player doing his best to impress is Moura, who scored the opener at Parc des Princes with a wonderful cushioned finish from a deep Gregory van der Wiel cross. The Dutchman would go off with a back injury at halftime -- another victim of Brandao's inexplicable aggression -- but Moura enjoyed a good 77-minute performance before making way for Yohan Cabaye. After his performance at Reims, where he incurred the wrath of Ibrahimovic at one point, the 22-year-old responded well and justified his continued selection.
The Brazilian was not the only PSG player to catch the eye though, as Javier Pastore continues to impress and looks like a new signing. The Argentine delighted the crowd at one point with some sublime close control and a clever nutmeg on Romaric, while continuing to thrive as part of Blanc's three-man midfield unit. Lucas Digne was also excellent at left-back, posing Bastia a constant threat and putting in a number of inviting crosses in a similar manner to van der Wiel's from the right.
However, Ibrahimovic and Motta's injuries will likely be preoccupying Blanc in the wake of the victory, and the thought of missing either -- along with captain Thiago Silva -- for the next few weeks is not a pretty one. The Italian's damage was sustained off the pitch and not on it, though. Made PSG captain once Ibrahimovic came off injured, the PSG No. 8 was walking down the tunnel when Bastia's Brazilian striker Brandao approached his opponent and viciously head-butted him before running to the visitors' changing room. Motta was left with a fractured nose and now could miss one or two games because of the unwarranted show of aggression, while PSG are calling for a lengthy ban for the player who has developed a reputation for laying into the capital club's stars since he arrived in France.
Despite the sour turn of events after the final whistle, it was a well-deserved victory for a PSG side that is not near to reaching its physical peak yet. It was comfortable enough for the hosts -- aided by a poor showing from Claude Makelele's men -- and the 2-0 scoreline accurately reflected the dominance of the capital side who twice found a way past their impressive on-loan goalkeeping prodigy Alphonse Areola. David Luiz also enjoyed a solid debut at the heart of the Parisien defence alongside Marquinhos and rarely looked troubled. As PSG's FIFA World Cup stars return, the champions will get stronger and their play will be more fluent but, for now, it was an adequate performance that produced the right result.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.