Paris: After falling short in the Champions League, Paris Saint-Germain returned to their French league comfort zone and beat Strasbourg 5-2 on Saturday.
Edinson Cavani netted twice, and Julian Draxler, Angel Di Maria, and Neymar also scored to ensure PSG stayed 12 points clear of second-place Monaco at the top.
But not without a fright.
Strasbourg took the lead in the sixth minute and pulled back to 3-2 as PSG continued to show alarming signs of weakness at the back. Strasbourg had a late goal incorrectly ruled out for offside after PSG’s defense was again easily breached, although it was already 5-2 by then.
PSG lost at Real Madrid 3-1 on Wednesday in the first leg of the last 16. The way PSG capitulated by giving away two late goals heaped pressure on coach Unai Emery over his team selection.
“The atmosphere was a bit tense. That’s normal,” Cavani said. “We have to look forward now. We played well today, although at times we could have been better.”
Emery was booed by sections of the home crowd when his name was announced over the loudspeaker before the game. Later, Cavani stopped short of giving Emery his personal backing when asked if the under-fire coach has the full support of the players.
“We’re a team and big teams stick together in the important moments,” Cavani said. “That’s the only way you can win.”
Strasbourg beat PSG at home in December, and stunned the crowd at Parc des Princes by taking the lead when midfielder Jean-Eudes Aholou was left completely unmarked near the penalty spot.
PSG hit back hard and was 3-1 up after 23 minutes thanks to Draxler, Di Maria and Neymar’s 19th in 19 league games.
Strasbourg scored when Stephane Bahoken — who scored in the home win against PSG — slotted a low shot into the bottom corner after a quick counter-attack opened up PSG’s flat defense.
Strasbourg poured forward but the hope didn’t last for long.
Cavani gave PSG some breathing space with an assured finish in the 72nd, clipping the ball over goalkeeper Alexandre Oukidja after latching onto substitute Javier Pastore’s astute pass.
Neymar picked out Cavani’s run with an even better pass from halfway, and Cavani coolly lobbed Oukidja for his league-leading 23rd goal.
To celebrate Chinese New Year, PSG players’ names were written in Mandarin on the back of their shirts and a Chinese dragon paraded around the pitch. PSG says it has 1.3 million Chinese followers, with new fan clubs opening in Shanghai and elsewhere this season.