PARIS, France, Jan 21 – Edinson Cavani struck his 19th and 20th goals of the Ligue 1 season as French champions Paris Saint-Germain won 2-0 at in-form Nantes on Saturday.
The impressive away win leaves PSG still in third, but they are now just a point behind leaders Nice and level with Monaco, who have a game in hand on Sunday at home to Lorient.
Coach Unai Emery, who has been under pressure at ambitious PSG, was full of praise for his players after a victory that owed much to the predatory instincts of striker Cavani.
“I am pleased with the work of the team — with those who started the game and the ones that came off the bench, who did very well,” he said.
“For the championship these three points are very important.”
Nantes came into the clash in red-hot form under new boss Sergio Conceicao, winning four games in a row without conceding a goal since the former Portugal international replaced Rene Girard last month.
But it took PSG — who started with Angel Di Maria and Hatem Ben Arfa on the bench — just 21 minutes to break that fine run, Uruguayan Cavani turning home a teasing first-time cross from Lucas.
It was a tight game of few chances at a packed and chilly Stade de la Beaujoire, but it was the home side who began to turn the screw as the first half wore on, without really troubling the PSG defence.
Cavani, the Ligue 1 top-scorer, had another sniff of goal six minutes before the break but the Nantes rearguard held firm.
One of the highlights of the half was a bizarre incident on 30 minutes when Marco Verratti was given a yellow card for unsportsman-like behaviour for getting on all fours to nod the ball back to Kevin Trapp so the PSG goalkeeper could pick the ball up.
PSG nearly made it 2-0 when a Thomas Meunier flicked header bounced off the top of the Nantes crossbar.
But on 65 minutes they did extend their lead, Cavani curling the ball over the wall from a direct free kick to leave Nantes goalkeeper Maxime Dupe rooted to the spot.
The only sour note for PSG was an injury to new boy Julian Draxler, who was taken off 20 minutes from time with what looked like a calf injury.
PSG host Monaco next weekend in a championship six-pointer.
Surprise-package Nice stay top despite losing two points in a 1-1 draw at Bastia on Friday in a game marred by what Nice striker Mario Balotelli said was persistent racial abuse directed at him from the home fans.
The Nice bus was also pelted with stones and the French league’s disciplinary committee said it will look into the incidents.