Zlatan Ibrahimovic isn’t going to the World Cup, but the Sweden striker has the consolation of reaching the knockouts of the European Champions League after his goal put Paris Saint-Germain on their way to a 2-1 win over Olympiakos.
PSG needed only a point to go through to the last 16, and it looked like Ibrahimovic’s goal in the 7th minute had given them all three when he was substituted with 10 minutes to play.
But Kostas Manolas immediately gave the Greeks hope by equalising seconds after the Swede had sat on the bench, before Edinson Cavani struck the winner for the Parisians in the 90th minute.
PSG are joined by Real Madrid and Manchester United in the last 16, while Juventus, Benfica and Shakhtar Donetsk boosted their chances of joining them in the knockout stages. Defending champions Bayern Munich set a competition record of 10 successive wins with victory at CSKA Moscow and nine-time European champions Real prevailed over Galatasaray.
Wednesday 27 November
B Leverkusen 0-5 Man United
Juventus 3-1 Copenhagen
Anderlecht 2-3 Benfica
CSKA Moscow 1-3 B Munich
Ibrahimovic had scored 17 goals in 11 matches for PSG and Sweden before this penultimate match of Group C, with two of them coming for his national team as they failed to get past Portugal for a place at Brazil 2014.
He announced his return to the domestic scene with a goal against Reims at the weekend, and needed just seven minutes here to score from close range after Gregory van der Wiel whipped in a low cross from the right.
Olympiakos, who were looking to go level on 10 points with PSG if they could win at the Parc des Princes, had their own goal machine on the pitch in the form of Kostas Mitroglou.
Unlike Ibrahimovic, the Greek striker will be going to the World Cup after his goals in the playoff win over Romania last week.
But he missed the chance to score his 24th goal of the season when his volley from Joel Campbell’s cross was pushed round the post by Salvatore Sirigu.
By half time though PSG had enjoyed 70 per cent possession and their 1-0 lead was looking secure.
But the second period was not even a minute old when they went down to 10 men, Marco Verratti given a second yellow for a professional foul, after pulling back David Fuster as he tried to drive forward from midfield.
That led to Lavezzi being taken off, with Adrien Rabiot coming on to shore up midfield. Olympiakos began posing more of a threat, with Slovakian international Vladimir Weiss drawing a series of fouls after coming on as a substitute.
Respite started to come through Ibrahimovic, who did things only when they needed doing, and never when they didn’t.
His short passes in midfield led to him being released to shoot just over the bar, and minutes later he sprang to win the ball, allowing Rabiot a shot on goal.
Typical of his style was when he found himself miles offside up the pitch when his teammates regained the ball from an Olympiakos attack. Rather than sprinting to get in an active position, he simply waited for play to get level with him again.
He was substituted to a standing ovation with 10 minutes to play, but a few seconds later it looked like Laurent Blanc might have wished the Champions League had a rolling subs rule.
Exit Ibra, enter the goal. A corner for Olympiakos was stabbed at Sirigu, but the Italian’s save fell at the feet of Manolas to make it 1-1 and increase the decibels coming from the away fans’ corner.
In the end, Ibrahimovic was not needed. Paris were coasting towards the point they needed when Marquinos, who had come on for the Swede, stroked the ball through for Cavani to stab home the winner.
The 2-1 win puts PSG through on 13 points with a match to play, while Olympiakos are now looking over their shoulders. The Greeks are level on seven points with last season’s Europa League runners-up Benfica, who won at Anderlecht.
Their fate, and that of Olympiakos, will be decided when PSG travel to Lisbon on December 12th.