STADE DE FRANCE, PARIS – After coming in for severe criticism following his wasteful showing against Chelsea in the second leg of Paris Saint-Germain’s UEFA Champions League quarter-final against the Blues, Edinson Cavani spectacularly answered his critics with a clinical double to secure the Coupe de la Ligue in a 2-1 win for PSG.
The Uruguayan put in an anaemic performance as the French champions suffered a surprise 1-0 defeat in Ligue 1 to Olympique Lyonnais at the Stade Gerland last Sunday, but six days later he was back to his best as Laurent Blanc’s players brushed Lyon aside at the Stade de France to seal a record fourth French League Cup title.
French international Alexandre Lacazette scored a superb consolation goal for Les Gones, but it was el Matador who proved to be the game’s match winner. Cavani netted an opportunist strike after just four minutes before doubling his tally with a controversial penalty 12 minutes before the break.
The PSG man was delighted to have scored in such an important game, but was quick to thank his teammates after the game.
"The Coupe de la Ligue was an important goal for us. We wanted to get out of a difficult spell," he revealed after the final whistle. "We're happy to have achieved our objectives. I'm happy to have scored, I must thank my team-mates for that."
After struggling since the start of 2014 to rediscover the same sort of form that he enjoyed in the first half of the season, Cavani made the difference when it mattered and filled Ibrahimovic’s shoes adequately.
It will be a big confidence boost for the former Napoli man, who failed fill those shoes in another important match—the Champions League quarter-final second leg at Stamford Bridge—and could now reignite his campaign. His return to form and confidence is also a timely boost for national team coach Oscar Tabarez.
The big question for Cavani now is whether or not he has done enough to convince PSG that he was worth the €64 million they paid for him last summer.
Prior to the game, the prolific marksman’s future had been the subject of speculation, per ESPN FC, ever since he told L’Equipe earlier this month that he is not happy at being played out of position by coach Laurent Blanc.
However, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s thigh injury in the first leg of the Chelsea encounter provided Cavani with the chance to play in his preferred central role.
Now that he has proven through this match-winning performance that he is capable of acting as the focal point of the PSG attack, the pressure is off of the Uruguayan somewhat and should allow him to get back to his best on a weekly basis.
El Matador finally put his injury concerns and recent loss of confidence behind him to put in an impressive showing against Lyon on Saturday. His first-half display was particularly encouraging.
Although there was an element of fortune involved in both goals, Cavani showed the sort of appetite that has been lacking too often since the turn of the year. It was the sort of performance that was expected of him when PSG travelled to Chelsea with a 3-1 first-leg lead in the Champions League.
Just four minutes had gone in the Coupe de la Ligue final when the South American showed predatory instinct to poke home a cute Maxwell chip over advancing Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes, following a slick exchange with Ezequiel Lavezzi on the left.
2 - Edinson Cavani's goal after 178 seconds is the 2nd fastest in any Coupe de la Ligue final after Wendel in 2009 (145 secs). Flash.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) April 19, 2014
The second goal was more debatable though—Lucas Moura was brought down outside of the penalty area by Lopes, but the Brazilian fell inside the area and referee Stephane Lannoy awarded the spot-kick. Cavani stepped up to fire powerfully past Lopes to make it 2-0 after just 33 minutes.
Moments later, it could and should have been 3-0 for PSG and Cavani should have been celebrating a famous treble, but the Parisian No. 9 could not convert after some excellent play from Lucas on the right.
Cavani’s second half was much quieter than the opening 45 minutes, but it was his double that ultimately made the difference and will boost his confidence massively as he continues to deputise for the injured Ibrahimovic.
It is a taste of the future—one eventually without the talismanic Swede—and Cavani has shown that he is now capable of rising to the biggest of occasions for PSG. Will it be enough to ensure that he remains in the French capital past the end of this season though?
At €64million and with 24 goals in 40 appearances across all competitions to his name with the French champions, the 27-year-old should have done more than enough and the club should be keen to continue with the Uruguayan.
A flurry of goals late in the season to help PSG seal their first-ever back-to-back Ligue 1 titles in the coming weeks would prove beyond doubt that Cavani is an indispensable part of Blanc’s side.