Paris: Paris St Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic received a deserved standing ovation after scoring a magnificent half-volley against Anderlecht on Wednesday, although the fans that were applauding him were not his own but those of the opposing team.
Not content with a single brilliant strike, the Swede went on to become the 10th man to score four goals in a Champions League tie as PSG won 5-0 in Belgium to extend their perfect record in Group C, and he remains the driving force of a team emerging as serious title contenders.
Last season, PSG were knocked out in the quarter-finals by Barcelona but after reinforcing the squad with striker Edinson Cavani, who also scored on Wednesday, and defender Marquinhos, they can be expected to progress even further this campaign.
"After a year together we know each other much better and some players have come in and made a difference. If you work very hard you get your rewards," Ibrahimovic told reporters.
Ibrahimovic, top scorer in Ligue 1 last season with 30 goals, netted a stunning 25-metre half-volley as he attacked a defensive header and also with a sublime back heel to make it 2-0 and put PSG on course for qualification to the last 16.
PSG are unbeaten in their last 29 games in all competitions, and not just because Ibrahimovic scores goals.
"What I like the most about him is his availability on the pitch and the fact that he puts in a defensive shift," coach Laurent Blanc said. "He is the engine of the team."
"Ibra is a great player and he has been showing it game after game," midfielder Blaise Matuidi added.
"He is one of the best in the world. He will be remembered as one of the best in European football... in world football, actually."
Cavani`s arrival has also played a part in helping Ibrahimovic expand his duties as the Uruguayan forward is creating space for both the fullbacks and the Swede.
"I always try to find space to get forward and provide assists and Edinson is a player who can come inside and leave space for me," leftback Gregory van der Wiel said.
"I am not surprised by Ibrahimovic. I think he is one of the best players in the world and he shows us that every game with amazing goals."