PARIS • Paris Saint-Germain appeared to be in trouble when they won only one of their first four matches in the Champions League this season, but six points from their final two games proved enough to send them through to the knockout stages.
The French champions reached the round of 16 on Tuesday thanks to inspired performances by Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe in a 4-1 win at Red Star Belgrade.
All three forwards scored in an intimidating atmosphere at the Rajko Mitic stadium, and defender Marquinhos was also on target to cancel out a volley by Red Star defender Marko Gobeljic.
The result lifted PSG to the top of Group C on 11 points, two ahead of Liverpool who also qualified thanks to a 1-0 home win over Napoli that left them ahead of the Italian side on goals scored.
Mbappe believes his team's turnaround was the result of clear-the-air talks in the dressing room after their wobbly start.
The 19-year-old told RMC Sport: "I don't think the team's improved; it's more that we had a realisation.
"We started performing and did what was asked of us. We asked questions of ourselves as individuals and as a team. You have to be able to speak frankly to each other. We did that and got our reward."
PSG started their European campaign this term with a 3-2 loss to Liverpool and coach Thomas Tuchel was delighted with the way his team have bounced back.
"It's not about the system, but about the attitude. It's really hard to win here and the guys played magnificently," he told RMC Sport.
"It was a difficult group with a lot of quality. It was hard, especially after our first match in Liverpool. The team showed they could play together."
Mbappe set up goals for Cavani and Neymar and was assisted by the latter for his own strike, and he was keen to praise the qualities of his attacking teammates.
"I have the chance to play with two great players. When we play like tonight, it's good for everyone," said the Frenchman.
"They are players who have nothing to prove to anyone. Cavani is the leading goalscorer in the club's history; Neymar is one of the best in the world.
"We have to go forward and look at what is ahead. We're looking at the last 16 and we'll see what happens in the draw (on Monday)."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS