Week 18 Review: Neymar inspires, OL claim Olympico
By D. Crossan
Neymar was Paris Saint-Germain's inspiration as the Ligue 1 Conforama leaders thrashed Rennes, while Olympique Lyonnais beat Olympique de Marseille in the Olympico as the race for the top three got hotter.
Back from a brief visit to Brazil, Neymar was outstanding at Rennes, scoring twice and setting up the other two, as well as touching the ball more often than anybody else on the Roazhon Park. The world's most expensive player dazzled with his skills and could easily have scored his first hat-trick in the French game. As it was the former Barcelona player contented himself with a double that lifted him on to 11 Ligue 1 Conforama goals for the season.
Marquinhos on Neymar: "It makes us happy to see him play like that"
An impressed Marquinhos said of his team-mate: "It makes us happy to see him play like that. He's a different sort of player who finds space and picks out his team-mates for goals. It's good for the team to have Neymar at this level because he's a really important player."
Kylian Mbappé and Edinson Cavani, the other members of the MCN, scored the other PSG goals. Cavani ended a four-game goal drought to move on to 154 goals for PSG in all competitions, two shy of Zlatan Ibrahimovic's club record.
Monaco go second
PSG, on 47 points, lead Monaco and Olympique Lyonnais by nine points. Monaco are above OL on goal difference following a 4-0 success at Saint-Etienne on Friday night. Monaco were already 3-0 up when Les Verts goalkeeper Stéphane Ruffier was sent off and added a fourth through Keita Baldé. Saint-Etienne coach Julien Sablé has failed to win any of his first six games in charge.
Olympico honours to OL
Sunday night's Olympico went OL's way as they beat OM 2-0 at Groupama Stadium. A Steve Mandanda blunder allowed OL skipper Nabil Fekir to open the scoring early with a long-range free-kick. Mariano Diaz headed home his 13th league goal of the season early in the second half to complete the victory. OL goalkeeper Anthony Lopes was outstanding as he repelled everything OM threw at him.
OL coach Bruno Genesio commented: "Anthony was decisive and it was down to him that we were leading at half-time. He was also great at the end of the game. He really wanted to play well in this big game as it was the last for goalkeeping coach Joël Bats, and also because the supporters' group Bad Gones were celebrating their birthday and he's one of them."
Ten-man Nantes beat Angers 1-0 thanks to an Emiliano Sala penalty to guarantee Les Canaris will be fifth at the turn of the year. Nantes boss Claudio Ranieri was sent to the stands early in the second half for touching the fourth official. Nice are sixth, four points back from Nantes, after Mario Balotelli scored the winner at home to struggling Bordeaux. Balotelli has scored in Nice's four consecutive wins that have lifted Les Aiglons from 18th to sixth.
Strasbourg are unbeaten in six matches and their third straight win, 2-1 at home to Toulouse, lifted the Domino's Ligue 2 champions to seventh in the table. Bottom club Metz scored their first win since September, stunning Montpellier 3-1 in the south of France, although they are still 11 points back from Toulouse in 17th.
Troyes put daylight between themselves and the bottom three with a 1-0 win over Amiens, while Wesley Saïd netted two as Dijon crushed LOSC 3-0. Caen and Guingamp played out a goalless draw.