Substitutes Pastore and Cavani help PSG overcome Niort, torrential rain
Defending champions Paris Saint-Germain reached the Coupe de France quarterfinals after overcoming a stubborn Niort side on a waterlogged Stade Rene Gaillard pitch thanks to goals from substitutes Javier Pastore and Edinson Cavani.
The win. Considering the torrential rain and the high number of absentees for this match, the only thing that mattered for PSG was getting the victory and reaching the quarters. Unai Emery's men did just that, so they can forget this testing experience and move on.
No injuries. Les Parisiens had to show impressive character to retrieve their victory from a practically flooded Niort but as much of a positive as the win -- if not greater -- was the fact that the men from the capital appeared to finish the game with no new injury concerns.
Emery's gambles. The Spaniard boldly fielded Pastore in his starting XI for the 5-1 win away at Marseille last weekend and was rewarded. The same happened here after he risked the Argentine international in unfavourable conditions. Fellow substitute Cavani also scored.
Had the match taken place under regular conditions, perhaps there would be a few minor complaints. However, it did not, so there are no real negatives from this. That the game even went ahead is a minor miracle itself.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Emery rotated his squad as much as possible in addition to a number of enforced changes and although the weather conditions almost spoiled his plans, the Basque tactician ultimately made two match-winning substitutions with Pastore and Cavani.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Alphonse Areola, 6 -- Untroubled for most of the first half, the French shot-stopper was busier in the second half and made one excellent save in difficult conditions for a goalkeeper. Aside from one misjudged high ball in, the 24-year-old was solid.
DF Thomas Meunier, 7 -- It does not matter whether PSG are playing Barcelona or Niort, the Belgian international always puts in maximum effort and this was no exception. In a match that was reduced to brawling in the muddy water at times, he still got stuck in and contributed at both ends.
DF Marquinhos, 6 -- Although the Brazilian did not have that much to do defensively, he got involved going forward and posed Niort problems from corners in both halves.
DF Presnel Kimpembe, 6 -- Once he got used to the treacherous conditions, the youngster settled down nicely. The PSG youth academy graduate was not far away from opening the scoring with an improvised volley in the second half and the only real blemish on his outing was a booking that will rule him out against Lyon later this month.
DF Maxwell, 6 -- Well rested after a few matches with no action, the veteran Brazilian led by example and put in a no-nonsense showing with contributions at both ends.
MF Grzegorz Krychowiak, 5 -- The out of favour Polish international was afforded a rare chance to impress Emery with so many other midfield options unavailable. However, the former Sevilla man struggled in the rain with the awful conditions only serving to emphasise his lack of technique.
MF Christopher Nkunku, 6 -- The youth academy graduate struggled in the first half but improved in the second. Nkunku was denied what looked to be a clear penalty after the break and provided the assist for Pastore's opener with an accurate free kick delivery.
MF Blaise Matuidi (C), 5 -- Although he captained the side, the French international would not have played if others had been available. He looked exhausted after his Marseille heroics and like everybody else, he struggled with the abhorrent conditions.
FW Goncalo Guedes, 5 -- It was a difficult full debut for the former Benfica man. The January arrival missed a few good opportunities but in fairness that was mainly because of the weather.
FW Jean-Kevin Augustin, 3 -- The youth academy graduate returned to the senior squad with a disappointing display. Cavani did more in 30+ minutes than the France under-21 did in his hour, which underlined why Emery has little faith in Augustin right now as Cavani's backup.
FW Julian Draxler, 5 -- The new arrival struggled to get into the match and the constant deluge of rain made it impossible for him to play his usual style of football.
FW Edinson Cavani, 6 -- Sent on for Augustin just before the hour mark, "El Matador" went close with a free kick before getting his goal at the death to wrap up the proceedings.
MF Javier Pastore, NR -- Like in Marseille, Pastore proved decisive. The playmaker opened the scoring from Nkunku's delivery before providing Cavani with the second. It looked like the worst possible conditions for Pastore but in reality, he thrived in his cameo after replacing Krychowiak for the final 17 minutes.
FW Lucas Moura, NR -- The Brazilian got nine minutes at the end in place of Draxler and nearly scored but the muddy water in the Niort goal kept out his low effort with the goalkeeper beaten.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.