Kylian Mbappé, Neymar, PSG
Match Reports

Mbappé keeps PSG clear at top

Mbappé keeps PSG clear at top

Match Reports
Publish on 10/01 at 22:54 - I. HOLYMAN

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Kylian Mbappé came off the bench to score a late winner after Lionel Messi's opening goal had been cancelled out as Paris Saint-Germain defeated Nice 2-1 on Saturday to move back to the top of the Ligue 1 Uber Eats table.

THE MATCH

Up against the club he left this summer after just a season in charge, Christophe Galtier chose to start with  Mbappé on the bench with Wednesday's UEFA Champions League trip to Benfica looming into view.

 

In the France international's stead was Hugo Ekitike, the summer arrival from Reims making his first PSG start, and he was forced to watch in the opening stages as Nice's effective pressing prevented the hosts giving their young forward any service.

 

They eventually managed to reach their opponents' penalty area shortly before the half-hour mark when Messi produced a moment of magic that has almost become commonplace for him. 

 

After being brought down by Dante some 20 metres from goal, the Argentina international — who scored twice in his country's win over Jamaica in New York in the early hours of Thursday morning Paris time — stepped up and whipped a shot over the wall and under the crossbar of a perplexed Kasper Schmeichel (29') to record the 60th direct free-kick goal of his career, his first for PSG.

 

Another promising set-piece from a similar position was wasted by Neymar (36') as Galtier — just as he had done to PSG in a goalless draw at the Parc des Princes last season — saw his team frustrated by their well organised, hard-working opponents.

 

 

Messi seemed to be the only one capable of breaking the shackles, and he teamed up with Juan Bernat, who started in place of the rested Nuno Mendes, down the left in added time at the end of the first half. Following an exchange of passes with the former Valencia and Bayern Munich full-back, Messi smashed a left-foot effort goalwards that Schmeichel did well to turn behind (45+1').

 

Monaco had been the only team to deny PSG maximum points this season when they battled to a 1-1 draw in the capital in late August. Nice — who had won four and lost just one of their last six away games before kick-off — gave themselves a chance of emulating their Côte d'Azur neighbours shortly after the restart when Laborde poked home his first Nice goal with the home defence caught out by Youcef Atal's cross (47').

 

The Algeria international, operating as a wing-back, then found his opposite number, left wing-back Melvin Bard, unmarked in the Paris penalty area, but the former Lyon man screwed his effort wide (52') with Lucien Favre's men, who had Ross Barkley starting for the first time, gaining the upper hand.

 

It must be quite a luxury to be able to throw on Mbappé when your team is struggling. Galtier did that with 30 minutes to go, and — as so often already this season — the FIFA World Cup winner delivered.

 

Twice he was played through by Messi only for the offside flag to be raised, but the forward's third opportunity proved decisive. Nordi Mukiele picked up the ball after Nice had surrendered possession, and following a return pass from Vitinha, found Mbappé in the penalty area. An eighth Ligue 1 Uber Eats goal of the season was the inevitable outcome (83') to move PSG two points clear of Marseille — 3-0 victors over Angers 24 hours earlier — at the top of the table.

 

THE PLAYER: Lionel Messi

The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner is making up for a mediocre (by his standards) first season in French football with a rip-snorting start to this one. He now has 11 goals and eight assists in 14 matches for club and country this season.

 

THE STAT: 18

PSG are now unbeaten in 18 league games, and 26 at home, winning 22 of them.

 

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