PARIS – Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc has admitted that his team's display in beating Benfica 3-0 in Champions League Group C on Wednesday was their best since he took charge of the club in the summer.
The French champions, who reached the last eight of last season's competition before losing on away goals to Barcelona, are hoping to go at least as far this time round and their opening results prove they mean business.
They are unbeaten in 11 games in all competitions since the campaign began and followed up a 4-1 win away to Olympiakos in Greece two weeks ago by blowing the Portuguese giants away in the opening half an hour at the Parc des Princes.
A Zlatan Ibrahimovic brace either side of a second goal in this season's competition for young Brazilian defender Marquinhos ended the game as a contest, and PSG were happy to see out the remaining 60 minutes.
They lead Group C, three points clear of Benfica and Olympiakos, with Anderlecht, their next opponents, at the bottom without a point.
When asked if it was PSG's best display under his leadership, Blanc replied: "In the analysis yes. The figures and statistics prove it is.
"The most interesting thing tonight is that from the first minute to the last Paris completely controlled the game. We don't always play like that. We scored when we were on top and it was a very satisfying evening from many points of view."
Blanc had words of praise for Marco Verratti, with the slight 20-year-old Italian producing a midfield masterclass alongside Thiago Motta which included a marvellous pass in the build-up to the second goal.
"Marco was the image of the team," said Blanc. "He is exceptional with the ball at his feet. All other players in his position are more imposing physically but when he and Thiago Motta play as they did tonight you get performances like that.
"It is important to have players like that who are sure of themselves with the ball at their feet. He makes his teammates feel more assured, but if we are going to single out Marco we must also single out Motta."
The negative aspects of the evening for Blanc were the poor performance of club record buy Edinson Cavani, who struggled to make an impact from a starting position wide on the right, and also the attitude of Jeremy Menez.
The temperamental French international winger stormed down the tunnel before the full-time whistle when it became clear that he would not be sent on from the bench.
"There is no problem with Menez. He was disappointed at not coming on, but I didn't see it – I was focusing on the game," said Blanc, who has already had trouble handling Menez when in charge of the national team.
Nevertheless, Blanc preferred to focus on the nature of the performance, which comes just four days before a trip to bitter rivals Marseille in Ligue 1.
"We are progressing. Our philosophy is not the easiest to implement but when it all comes off you get performances like that.
"But believe me you need the players to put that philosophy into practice. There will be other coaches who wish to play that way but they don't have the players. I am lucky to have very talented players with or without the ball."
Benfica coach Jorge Jesus admitted in an interview with French sports daily L'Equipe published on the day of the game that the only difference between his club and Europe's other leading names was money, and his point was proven on the Parc des Princes pitch.
"We were up against a very strong team who showed the quality that took them to the quarter-finals of last season's Champions League," he said.
"They have reinforced since last season and clearly want to compete to win the Champions League. We suffered against the quality of their three attackers. "Tonight we were up against the group favourites but we will keep fighting with Olympiakos to qualify." AFP