Football: Neymar on target on 100th appearance as PSG earn fourth straight win

PSG are now three points clear of second-placed Lille. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PARIS (AFP) - Brazil star Neymar made his 100th appearance for Paris Saint-Germain on Friday (Jan 22) and marked the occasion with a goal in a 4-0 rout of 10-man Montpellier that took Mauricio Pochettino's side clear at the top of Ligue 1.

Kylian Mbappe scored twice and Mauro Icardi was also on target, with PSG leading 1-0 before netting three times in the space of four minutes around the hour mark.

The game, played behind closed doors at the Parc des Princes, was conditioned by the early sending-off of Montpellier goalkeeper Jonas Omlin for a foul on Mbappe, as PSG made the most of their extra man.

It was their fourth straight win since drawing at Saint-Etienne in Pochettino's first match in charge after the Argentinian was appointed as coach on Jan 2.

The former Tottenham Hotspur boss was back on the Paris bench, having spent a week self-isolating following a positive Covid-19 test that forced him to miss his new team's 1-0 win at Angers last weekend.

PSG are now three points clear of second-placed Lille, who go to in-form Rennes on Sunday. Lyon in third place are five points behind the leaders before visiting derby rivals Saint-Etienne, who will be without seven players because of a coronavirus outbreak.

The capital club's rivals may have their work cut out trying to overtake the reigning champions on this evidence, with the attacking quartet of Neymar, Mbappe, Icardi and Angel di Maria running riot.

Neymar's goal took his tally to 81 in 100 appearances for PSG since his world-record €222 million (S$359 million) move from Barcelona in August 2017.

His time in Paris has been marred by injuries at important moments but there can be no disputing his impressive record in front of goal as he prepares to face his old club in the last 16 of the Champions League next month.

Mbappe was more prominent in this game, however.

The France World Cup-winning star was scythed down just outside the box by Omlin in the 16th minute, with the Swiss goalkeeper initially shown a yellow card before the punishment was upgraded to red following a VAR review.

PSG made the extra man count as di Maria played in Mbappe to open the scoring with a dinked finish over substitute goalkeeper Dimitry Bertaud in the 34th minute.

Pochettino lost goalkeeper Keylor Navas to injury at half-time, while captain Marquinhos was also forced off early in the second half.

However, Mbappe cut the ball back for Neymar to make it 2-0 on the hour mark, before Icardi tucked in his third goal in four games.

It was 4-0 in the 63rd minute when Icardi set up Ligue 1's leading scorer Mbappe to finish for his second of the night and 14th of the season.

Layvin Kurzawa almost provided the cherry on top of the cake soon after, but his stunning overhead kick was tipped onto the crossbar by Bertaud.

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