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PSG thrashes Valenciennes 3-0 to extend lead to 8 points atop French league
PARIS - Paris Saint-Germain geared up for its Champions League tie against Bayer Leverkusen by defeating Valenciennes 3-0 Friday to extend its lead to eight points in the French league.
Argentina winger Ezequiel Lavezzi beat goalkeeper Nicolas Penneteau in the 18th minute before Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic volleyed home in the 50th to notch his 19th league goal this season.
The hosts made it 3-0 with an own goal from Valenciennes defender Gary Kagelmacher in the 52nd.
"The players had the Champions League on their minds but they managed to focus on tonight's French league game," PSG coach Laurent Blanc told BeIn Sport television.
PSG remained the only side still undefeated at home in the league.
On Saturday, it's Bastia vs. Monaco; Lorient vs. Toulouse; Nice vs. Nantes; Reims vs. Bordeaux; Rennes vs. Montpellier; and Sochaux vs. Guingamp.
On Sunday, Lyon hosts Ajaccio, Marseille visits Saint-Etienne and Lille faces Evian.
Stuck in the relegation zone, Valenciennes fielded a defensive 5-3-2 system in the hope of containing PSG's potent offence. But the hosts pressed high up the pitch to dominate possession and put Valenciennes on the back foot in the opening minutes.
Kagelmacher cleared off the line a backheel flick from Ibrahimovic in the fourth minute. Penneteau then parried PSG captain Thiago Silva's header from a cross by Lucas Digne in the ninth.
PSG finally converted its domination into a goal when Ibrahimovic's free kick crashed into the Valenciennes wall. The rebound fell to Lavezzi, who shot past Penneteau from 10 yards.
Lavezzi nearly doubled the lead in the following minute, but failed to convert a low cross from fullback Gregory Van der Wiel from five yards. Lavezzi, whose uncle was murdered Tuesday in Argentina, also had a powerful strike blocked by defender Saliou Ciss in the eighth minute and an angled shot turned around the post by Penneteau in the 24th. Penneteau limited the damage by denying Ibrahimovic in the 36th.
"Since the beginning of the year, we create a lot of chances but convert few of them," Blanc said. "We must work on that."
Valenciennes was cornered in its own half but could have levelled in the 31st. Thiago Silva headed a cross from Valenciennes left back Arthur Masuaku into the path of an unmarked David Ducourtioux, who fired wide from 14 yards.
"We showed them a bit too much respect," Valenciennes midfielder Ducourtioux said. "We lacked aggressiveness."
PSG quickly pulled away in the second half by scoring shortly after the restart.
Ibrahimovic volleyed home an off-target attempt from Yohan Cabaye for a 2-0 lead.
Two minutes later, Kagelmacher turned into his own net a cutback from Lavezzi for Ibrahimovic.
Lavezzi made again the difference with his pace in the 58th to take a pass from Ibrahimovic, but Penneteau saved his chip.
Blanc rested some key players before Tuesday's Champions League match against Bayer Leverkusen. He replaced Ibrahimovic and Thiago Motta with Lucas Moura and Adrien Rabiot in the 64th, and Lavezzi with Marco Verratti in the 75th. Blanc left on the bench Alex, Maxwell and Blaise Matuidi.
"They didn't need to raise their game," Penneteau told Canal Plus television. "I think they only played at 50 or 60 per cent of their potential."
PSG missed Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani and France international Christophe Jallet through injury.
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