(Reuters) - Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored with a stunning long-range strike as Paris St Germain sauntered to a 4-0 win at Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday which clearly demonstrated they are among the Champions League favorites.
The volatile Swedish striker, who had converted a penalty three minutes earlier, struck a rising shot into the top corner from 25 meters to cap a performance which included his usual mix of nonchalance, arrogance and breath-taking skill.
Ibrahimovic, who argued constantly with his opponents and appeared to taunt them near the end, was also involved in PSG’s other two goals, scored by Blaise Matuidi and substitute Yohan Cabaye as he took his tally in this season’s competition to 10.
PSG totally dominated the last-16 first-leg match, playing long periods of delightful possession football with midfield trio Thiago Motta, Marco Verratti and Matuidi also outstanding.
Leverkusen, second in the Bundesliga but with a poor recent European record, were never in the hunt after Matuidi scored in the third minute.
The Germans, beaten 5-0 at home by Manchester United in their final group match, had to wait 36 minutes for their first shot on target and did not produce a genuine opening until 13 minutes from the end.
“We lost heart, we were too nervous,” shell-shocked defender Omer Toprak told Sky Sport Deutschland. “They walked all over us. It was a shame for the fans.”
The Bundesliga side’s misery was extended when defender Emir Spahic was sent off in the 59th minute for a foul on Lucas and they may have been relieved to finish losing by just four goals.
“Tonight, we re-found our collective power, as if it was at the beginning of the season,” PSG coach Laurent Blanc told French TV station Canal Plus.
“You may point out Bayer’s weakness but I would rather note the PSG performance tonight. We played as a great team, both individually and collectively.
“The squad is in a very, very good state of mind and I also want to congratulate those who came off the bench. I really have many options to make my starting line-up, everyone is motivated and focused.”
Leverkusen made a disastrous start when captain Simon Rolfes, substituted at halftime, lost possession to Matuidi in his own half and the ball was in the back of their net within seconds.
The ball was instantly fed to Ibrahimovic, who found Verratti and the Italian laid the ball back to Matuidi who side-footed past Bernd Leno.
PSG took control, although Ibrahimovic was slow to get into the action and brought ironic jeers from the crowd when he carelessly backheeled the ball into touch.
But it was not long before he made his mark.
The visitors extended their lead in the 39th minute when Spahic was penalised for an off-the-ball tackle on Ezequiel Lavezzi and Ibrahimovic fired the penalty into the bottom left- hand corner.
Ibrahimovic produced his masterpiece three minutes later, striking a rising, first-time shot into the far top corner after Matuidi rolled the ball back to him.
“We played good game,” Ibrahimovic said. “We had a good start with Blaise’s goal and when you’re one goal up it’s easier. It was good first half and in the second half we continued to play our game
“When you play well, you know you will have opportunities so you just have to stay focused and score.”
Bayer were spared further blushes in the 67th minute when substitute Philipp Wollschied turned a Makuidi shot into his own goal but the effort was disallowed for offside against Lavezzi, although he did not appear to be interfering with play.
PSG had clearly taken their foot off the pedal by this stage but they still found enough enthusiasm for a typically well-worked fourth goal.
Midfielder Cabaye struck two minutes from time to complete the rout, firing home past the helpless Leno after a cross by winger Maxwell found Lucas who laid the ball into his path.
Additional reporting by Gregory Blachier in Paris; writing by Brian Homewood; editing by Ed Osmond.