Neymar on song as PSG win at Lille
Neymar Jr swelled his Ligue 1 Conforama tally to 18 goals as the Brazilian superstar found the net in Paris Saint-Germain's 2-0 win at LOSC Lille on Saturday that restored the league leaders' advantage at the top to 11 points.
LOSC Lille 0-3 Paris Saint-Germain
The roof was closed at the Stade Pierre Mauroy, a symbol of how the hosts would attempt to shut down the second-most prolific attack the French top flight has ever seen after 23 matches.
The hosts, who had triumphed dramatically against RC Strasbourg Alsace last time out to move a point clear of the bottom three, were not able to prevent Neymar Jr from firing in the first effort of the game, however, after just nine minutes.
But Christophe Galtier's men soon found a response with Hamza Mendyl forcing the first serious save of the game from Alphonse Areola after good approach play by Anwar El Ghazi, back in the LOSC starting XI after playing a decisive role with a goal and assist in the triumph over Strasbourg (18').
LOSC goalkeeper Mike Maignan, who learned his trade at the PSG youth academy before moving north, hurled out a quick throw that led to a counter-attack capped by Ibrahim Amadou firing just wide as the hosts gave the visitors a surprisingly difficult time (29').
PSG might have had better reward had Edinson Cavani opted to pass to Neymar instead of shooting himself (39'), but the league leaders, who had seen Olympique de Marseille close their advantage at the top to eight points with Friday's 6-3 win over FC Metz, were still able to go ahead before the interval.
Neymar picked out Cavani inside the Lille penalty area, and though the Uruguay international's forward progress was halted by Junior Alonso, the ball rolled happily into the path of Yuri Berchiche, whose low shot was too good for Maignan (45'), giving the Spanish full-back his second league goal in France.
It was a blow for Lille, but within three minutes of the restart they would have been level had Areola not moved acrobatically to his right to halt an El Ghazi free-kick (48'). Maignan did something similar to keep out a fierce Neymar effort (55') and then push away a Cavani header from an Angel Di Maria cross (60').
The combined efforts of Maignan and Areola might not even have been enough, however, had they been able to join forces in trying to prevent Neymar from doubling PSG's advantage 12 minutes from time. Kouadio-Yves Dabila's rash challenge on Cavani in a central area just outside the penalty box was inviting trouble with Neymar on the pitch - the former Barcelona man duly provided it in the shape of a brilliantly flighted shot into the top corner (78').
The game was already up for Lille, but not over for PSG, who claimed a third through Giovani Lo Celso two minutes from time.
The young Argentine had netted his first PSG goal in the midweek Coupe de la Ligue win over Stade Rennais and clearly has a taste for it, smashing a shot beyond Maignan from the edge of the box to complete a 20th victory of the league season for Unai Emery's men.
THE PLAYER: Neymar Jr
The brilliant Brazilian continues to not only dazzle but also deliver. With 18 goals already in the French top tier this season, he is on course to go close - and perhaps even surpass - his career-best tally of 24 league strikes with Barça in the 2015-16 campaign.
THE STAT: 1
PSG are the only team in Ligue 1 Conforama this season to have won every time they have taken the lead.