Neymar and Mbappé down Nantes as PSG restore lead
Neymar Jr. and Kylian Mbappé were on target as Paris Saint-Germain opened up a five-point lead on Olympique de Marseille at the top of the table with a 2-0 win over FC Nantes at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday.
Paris Saint-Germain 2-0 FC Nantes
PSG welcomed Nantes to the capital with an unexpected eight-day rest under their belt, the AS Monaco match on Sunday postponed due to torrential rain in the principality, and the champions started a break-neck speed against their visitors. Layvin Kurzawa burst into the Nantes box before crossing for Mbappé and the world's best young player would surely have had his sixth goal of the Ligue 1 Conforama campaign if not for the last-ditch intervention of Andre Girotto (24'). Thomas Meunier was the next to try and tee up the French World Cup winner with a low cross from the right, but this time the 20-year-old blazed over (28'). In fairness to Nantes, they did a good job of absorbing PSG's pressure and always looked capable of hitting Thomas Tuchel's men on the counter with Kader Bamba's pace. Ludovic Blas - enjoying life in his new-found No.10 role - kept Paris honest with a fine effort from range, but Keylor Navas did well to turn his shot out for a corner (29'). The home crowd erupted towards the end of the half when Neymar volleyed home a fine finish after Nantes had made a hash of clearing Angel Di Maria's corner, but the Brazilian's effort was ruled out after VAR review, with Julian Draxler having fouled Imran Louza in the area (41'). Marquinhos found Neymar with a through-ball on the stroke of half-time but Alban Lafont did brilliantly to close down the angle (45'+2) and the sides went in for the interval with the deadlock intact.
Paris too strong
Mbappé came close once again soon after the restart, getting the break of the ball after a failed through-ball attempt for Neymar, but the venom in his shot was matched by the positioning and bravery of Lafont in the Nantes goal (49'). There was nothing the Fiorentina-owned shot-stopper could do about the opener minutes later though. Neymar slipped Di Maria clear on the right and the Argentine steered the ball in for Mbappé with the outside of his left boot - rendering the offside trap irrelevant - before the darling of the Paris crowd backheeled the opener past a helpless Lafont (52'). Nantes threatened to return fire when Bamba broke clear on the counter, opening up a two-on-one against Marquinhos. The Brazil defender-turned-defensive midfielder closed the distance on Bamba, but the Nantes winger poked the ball through to Imran Louza, whose first-time effort was well saved by Navas (58'). That was the start of a good spell for Nantes, and they had another chance when Gilles Simon charged at the Paris box before trying to tee up Mehdi Abeid, but the Algeria midfielder stumbled and the danger dissipated (66'). Tuchel sent Mauri Icardi and Pablo Sarabia on for the run-in place of Mbappé and Julian Draxler (78'), and the former earned a late penalty when he was clattered by Lafont following a defensive mix-up with Nicolas Pallois. Neymar stepped up to convert at the second time of asking (85') and it ended 2-0.
THE PLAYER: Kylian Mbappé
Mbappé has found himself in the unusual position of having to share the headlines this season, with Di Maria (six goals and six assists) and Icardi (six goals and one assist) thriving in his injury-enforced absence earlier in the campaign. Fully fit, it is hard to imagine anyone getting close to the youngster for attacking productivity, though. Mbappé didn't even look to be at full tilt on Wednesday, and yet there was a sense of panic among the Nantes defence every time he got on the ball. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will hang up their boots one day. When they do, their heir to the title of best footballer in the world seems blindingly obvious.
THE STAT: 14
PSG have won each of their last 14 home games against Nantes in all competitions, a run which stretches back way before the big money from Qatar arrived in the French capital. The last time Les Canaris took all three points away with them from Paris was November 2002, when Sylvain Armand - two years before signing for PSG - scored the only goal of the game at the Parc des Princes. Recent Tottenham Hotspur coach Mauricio Pochettino, now 47, was playing centre-back for Paris that day.