Ibrahimovic nets four as stylish PSG seal French title in record time

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Ibrahimovic's goals helped clinch PSG to a fourth consecutive Ligue 1 crown.

French giants Paris Saint-Germain, inspired by four stunning Zlatan Ibrahimovic goals, turned on the style Sunday to beat Troyes 9-0 and clinch a fourth consecutive Ligue 1 crown in record time.

Just four days after advancing to the Champions League quarter-finals, PSG wrapped up the club’s sixth French title with eight games to spare by beating a Troyes side destined for an immediate return to the second tier.

Laurent Blanc’s men obliterated the French record for the quickest league victory, currently held by Lyon who won the 2007 title under Gerard Houllier with five games to go.

Unlike last season when Paris waited until late March to take over top spot, the capital club have set the pace uninterrupted since beating Gazelec Ajaccio 2-0 in their second game of the campaign.

Three goals in six early first-half minutes settled PSG’s nerves at Troyes’ sun-kissed Stade de l’Aube.

First up was Edinson Cavani, the Uruguyan capitalising on a poor back pass to sneak in to beat goalkeeper Matthieu Dreyer on the second attempt.

Pastore made it 2-0 shortly after, a David Luiz interception played quickly to Ibrahimovic, whose sublime backheel found the Argentinian who toe-poked a looped finish past a despairing Dreyer.

No sooner had the game been restarted than Adrien Rabiot was the welcome recipient for PSG’s third after following up on a Cavani shot that rebounded off Dreyer.

It was then time for Ibrahimovic to take centre stage in 10 magical minutes.

The towering Swede made it 4-0 just seconds into the second-half after Cavani intercepted another poor clearance, “Ibra” gifted too much space on the edge of the box and making no mistake as he drilled the ball low into the left-hand corner.

Ibrahimovic’s second was a gem, a first-time mid-air volley of an inch-perfect Angel di Maria cross as PSG swamped Troyes.

His third — and 100th in Ligue 1 action — was equally sublime, the 34-year-old Swede meeting a Layvin Kurzawa cross at full speed and unleashing a blinding right-footed shot that swerved into the far corner of the net.

Matthieu Saunier compounded Troyes’ woes with an own goal, while Lossemy Karaboue saw red for hauling Cavani down in the box with 16 minutes to play.

Dreyer did well to save Cavani’s penalty, but the striker tapped in at the second bite.

It was left to Ibrahimovic to wrap up the 9-0 rout, the striker showing great strength to ride a tackle and unleash an unstoppable shot after a Pastore through-ball.

The Ligue 1 title was the fourth time Blanc has won it as a manager having also guided Bordeaux to the 2008-09 title.

But PSG’s ambitions go beyond simply retaining the league title, with the club also through to the League Cup final on April 23 and set to face Lorient four days earlier for a place in the French Cup showpiece as they seek to defend last year’s historic treble.

How PSG fare next month will go a long way to determining how successfully their season is portrayed, with Blanc’s side due to play the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie on April 5-6 ahead of the return fixture a week later.

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Watford stun holders Arsenal in FA Cup

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Odion Ighalo scored Watford's opening goal against Arsenal.

A potentially defining seven days in Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal reign started with FA Cup defeat as Watford knocked out the holders in their quarter-final clash at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Wenger knew how important this game was as he recalled both Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. He had voiced concerns over how his defence would handle Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney, and he was right to be fearful as both shone.

Arsenal were enjoying most of the ball without testing Hornets goalkeeper and the hosts were lucky not to be reduced to 10 men before the half-hour mark as Gabriel appeared to go into a challenge two-footed on Deeney, only for referee Andre Marriner to wave play-on.

Either side of the challenge, Watford had wasted the ball in good positions, Ighalo twice failing to pick a simple pass to strike partner Deeney on the edge of the Arsenal box.

While Ighalo was guilty of wasting possession at one end, Mohamed Elneny was profligate at the other, twice blazing an effort well wide of Pantilimon’s goal when well placed.

Ozil had set up the second Elneny chance with a glorious piece of skill and another wonderful pass through to Joel Campbell set the Costa Rica international away, only for him to scoop his shot over the crossbar.

Ighalo may have been unable to square an easy pass to Deeney, but the Nigeria striker bagged his 16th of the season, holding off Gabriel and firing past David Ospina after Deeney had headed Nathan Ake’s throw-in into his path.

Ake almost laid on a second for the striker, bursting forward through the Arsenal ranks before whipping in a low cross which Ighalo failed to connect with.

Watford soon took the game away from the holders as Deeney held off Per Mertesacker before teeing up Guedioura to flash a bullet of a shot past Ospina.

Wenger reacted by bringing on Theo Walcott, Alex Iwobi and Welbeck and the latter pulled a goal back having been played in by a superb Ozil back-heel – but he then spurned the chance to level as he missed a near-open goal after Iwobi and Kieran Gibbs had come close.

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European Football Round-up: Barcelona and Bayern Munich remain top

Sport360 staff 13/03/2016

Diego Costa was sent off during Chelsea’s 2-0 FA Cup defeat at Everton after bizarrely nuzzling the neck of opposing midfielder Gareth Barry.

Costa was booked in the first half for a foul on Barry and in the 84th minute the pair clashed again after Costa took exception to a challenge by the former England international.

Everton prevailed courtesy of a late brace from former Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku.

Lionel Messi scored, provided three assists and missed a penalty as Barcelona pressed home their advantage at the top of La Liga with a 6-0 thrashing of Getafe on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Atletico eased past an under-strength and out of form Deportivo.

In the Bundesliga, Thomas Mueller and Thiago Alcantara both netted twice as leaders Bayern Munich warmed up for their crunch Champions League clash at home to Juventus by blitzing Werder Bremen 5-0.

Elsewhere, in Italy, Ivan Perisic and Danilo D’Ambrosio struck late to secure a 2-1 win over Bologna and inject life into Inter Milan’s desperate bid to end a four-year wait for Champions League football.

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