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MATCHES
 
 
Zlatan Ibrahimovic bagged a hat-trick as Paris Saint-Germain warmed up for their Champions League clash with Manchester City by beating Nice 4-1 at the Parc des Princes on Saturday.
Insatiable Ibrahimovic nets hat-trick in PSG victory
04/02/2016
 
PSG vs Nice, Ligue 1

Zlatan Ibrahimovic bagged a hat-trick as Paris Saint-Germain warmed up for their Champions League clash with Manchester City by beating Nice 4-1 at the Parc des Princes on Saturday.


Ibrahimovic took his tally for the season to 30 league goals and David Luiz also scored for PSG, who secured their fourth consecutive Ligue 1 title with eight matches to spare last month, while Hatem Ben Arfa had earlier found the net for Nice.


It was the best possible preparation for Paris before they host City in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday, as they bounced back from a 2-0 defeat at home to Monaco in their last outing before the international break and responded to City's 4-0 win at Bournemouth earlier in the Premier League.


"The merit goes to the players, honestly, we didn't prepare for this match at all," said Paris coach Laurent Blanc, who saw many of his side only return from international duty late in the week.


"The only session we had more or less all together was yesterday (Friday). We didn't do much. That proves that we have a strong squad, and the players always want to win."


Blanc sent out a strong side, albeit one in which youngster Hervin Ongenda made just his third league start of the season, and the capital club proved far too strong for a Nice side who started the day in third and were looking to close the gap on Monaco above them.


Nice remain five points behind second-placed Monaco, who were beaten 2-1 at home by Bordeaux on Friday, but were leapfrogged by Rennes after their 3-1 victory over Reims.


"When they play at Champions League level like that, they are very difficult to beat," admitted Nice coach Claude Puel.


"Apart from Paris, I think we have the beating of most teams, but they were a cut above.


"My team are kids, the youngest in Europe. For me, Paris are one of the four best teams in Europe."


Ibrahimovic opened the scoring quarter of an hour in when he superbly controlled a high ball into the box by Luiz and fired past Nice goalkeeper Yoan Cardinale.


However, the excellent Ben Arfa quickly brought Nice back on level terms with a superb strike that also exposed PSG's slight weakness in defense.


The France winger saw centre-backs Luiz and Thiago Silva back off him, giving him the time and space to send a curling shot past Kevin Trapp into the top-left corner for his 14th goal of the season in all competitions.


Nevertheless, PSG were back in front before the break thanks to a stunning Ibrahimovic free-kick, the Swede sending a rocket of a shot into the top-left corner from the edge of the area to make it 2-1.


Brazil centre-back Luiz increased PSG's lead three minutes into the second half with a near-post header from a corner and Ibrahimovic completed his hat-trick eight minutes from time after being set up by Adrien Rabiot.


The 34-year-old striker, who is out contract in the summer, has now equalled his best ever goals tally in a Ligue 1 season and has 38 for the campaign in all competitions.


Teenage sensation Ousmane Dembele scored twice as Rennes registered a fourth win in five outings to climb back into the final Champions League place, although Lyon could replace them with a victory at Lorient on Sunday.


Saint-Etienne also remain in the hunt for a top-three finish after defeating Gazelec Ajaccio 2-0, but Troyes' relegation was officially confirmed following a 1-0 loss at home to Angers.


Toulouse clawed to within four points of safety with a 2-0 victory over Caen, while Montpellier and Guingamp edged further away from trouble following a 2-2 draw.

Source: Andy Scott AFP
 
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