Like last weekend, Ligue 1’s second round of fixtures did not fail to disappoint with a number of surprise results.
Top of that list was Paris Saint-Germain’s 1-1 draw with AC Ajaccio, but AS Monaco also notched a surprising 4-1 win over Montpellier Herault SC. The score line was the surprise, not the overall result.
All three of Le Championnat’s star strikers—Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani and Radamel Falcao—were in action.
Here is how the trio fared in their respective games.
After the exhilarating experience of bagging a hat trick on international duty for Sweden against Scandinavian neighbours Norway, Ibrahimovic is once again a man in form after a disrupted preseason. PSG welcomed Fabrizio Ravanelli’s Ajaccio to the Parc des Princes, keen to make up for a disappointing opening-day draw at Montpellier.
The Swede started the game well and was central to everything the French champions did coming forward. Ibra was a constant menace from set pieces. His markers found it difficult to deal with his sheer physical presence, and when PSG fell behind, he became more involved as he tried to spark a comeback, getting close a number of times.
Plenty has been made of whether he and new striker partner Cavani can play together, on the evidence of this match the answer would be "yes." Despite the result, PSG created a mass of chances, and there were some promising early signs of an understanding being struck by the pair.
Ibrahimovic assumed the role of provider when they did link up of course, but Cavani showed enough to suggest that he will look to give his teammate the chance to profit when he pulls wide.
How do you go about convincing people that your club were right in spending €64 million on signing you this summer? That’s right, score goals. Lots of them.
After 86 minutes of frustration for PSG as they threw everything forward trying to equalise against stubborn Ajaccio, the Uruguayan provided a taste of what is to come from him in France. "El Matador" collected a pass from substitute Hervin Ongenda with his back to goal before shifting it onto his left, turning and firing past the otherwise sensational Guillermo Ochoa.
What a way to introduce yourself to your new fans than with a home debut goal of that quality.
But the late strike was not the only thing that made the 26-year-old’s performance impressive. Throughout the match Cavani was getting involved, going for goal from various positions and working himself hard to be in the right spaces for his teammates to find him.
He demonstrated his versatility as well, dropping wide at times, which is something we see him do more of for his country than previous club Napoli or PSG. The other big question surrounding the Celeste star is whether he can coexist in the French champions’ squad alongside Ibrahimovic.
Based on this performance, the answer is "yes." The pair can play together, but more importantly they appear to be willing to sacrifice elements of their natural game to help the other.
There was enough tentative link-up play between Ibrahimovic and Cavani to show glimpses of what PSG can expect to see from the pair in the future, and both appeared happy enough to work for one another.
Although the 4-1 score line would suggest that Falcao had a field day with Monaco against 2011 champions Montpellier, it was another striker who was making the headlines. "El Tigre" did open the scoring with a penalty, his second goal in as many games.
However, like last week the Colombian was left frustrated by his inability to influence the game a bit more. He was also probably not expecting such a good run of form to come the man who now looks to be his regular strike partner, though.
Falcao, in theory, is supposed to be Monaco’s predator and regular goal scorer, but instead Emmanuel Riviere is putting the 27-year-old in the shade at present. The Frenchman bagged a hat trick in the victory at the Stade Louis II to add to the goal he scored in Bordeaux last week.
Admittedly, the season is only two games old, and Falcao has scored once in each of those encounters, a good return from someone new to the league. However, it is clear that the Colombian international has some way to go yet before he can be considered fully integrated into Les Monegasques’ set-up.
Instead, Claudio Ranieri’s side look most dangerous on the flanks,where Yannick Ferreira Carrasco and Lucas Ocampos can stretch defences with their pace and have the necessary creative ability to tee goals up instead of just trying to score themselves. Riviere has been the main beneficiary of that silver service for now, though.
Overall it has been a satisfying fortnight for Falcao and Monaco, but individually the predator will feel a bit frustrated. Considering that James Rodriguez and Joao Moutinho were absent from the Principality outfit’s side to face Montpellier, there will be a few more changes to the team before Falcao is playing with a consistent team around him.
Moutinho in particular will be a key player for the side; his return to fitness is of great importance to Falcao and will reduce the side’s reliance on the strength of their wing men.
Although Falcao’s Monaco side have raced away at the top of the table with six points from two matches, the Colombian has not hit top form yet. Cavani has only played one full match, but already looks to be adjusting well despite his team’s relatively slow start.
The Uruguayan’s goal against Ajaccio takes the pressure off of "El Matador," and, if anything, puts it on Falcao. Given the quality of the goal, demonstrating exactly why PSG were prepared to part with 64 million Euros to sign him, the former Atletico Madrid man is not the only big-money summer arrival who is starting to justify the hype.
Cavani, without the aid of a penalty or a fortuitous assist (as it was against Bordeaux), has now arguably demonstrated more following his goal.
Ibrahimovic is yet to get off the mark this season, but we already know what he is capable of. The Swede has nothing to prove to PSG or Ligue 1, or Cavani and Falcao for that matter; it was more important that his new strike partner find the net immediately in these first few weeks.