Ligue 1: Messi scores as leader PSG rout defending champions Lille 5-1

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Lionel Messi had one of his best games for Paris Saint-Germain, as the runaway leaders benefited from a poor goal to beat defending champions Lille 5-1 to move 13 points clear of the French league.

The first two goals were given away, while the third was well received by seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi in the 37th minute for his second league goal since joining from Barcelona. Lille caused PSG problems but defended poorly.

PSG drew and lost to Lille last season without scoring a goal. Lille conceded just 23 goals during that victorious campaign, but standout goalkeeper Mike Maignan’s departure to AC Milan proved costly and Lille have already conceded 35.

The difference was evident when Lille goalkeeper Ivo Grbic made a blunder in the 10th, sending a routine cross from the left into the path of Danilo Pereira for a touch.

Former France winger Hatem Ben Arfa, who spent two unlucky years at PSG between 2016 and 2018, made a spirited debut for Lille after joining the tenth club of his fluctuating career.

Central defender Sven Botman equalized in the 27th, converting a cross after an excellent run from Ben Arfa down the left. Ben Arfa showed great skill passing Angel Di Maria, despite having little space, and then shot the ball while he was off balance to the waiting Botman.

It was a belated reminder of the exquisite but perhaps wasted talent of 34-year-old Ben Arfa.

Grbic then made another inexplicable mistake by not moving towards a corner, letting it clumsily roll over him when centre-back Presnel Kimpembe scored from close range.

He wasn’t to blame for PSG’s third goal, but his defense was. He failed to clear the ball and allowed it to land at Messi’s feet.

The Argentinian star showed his trademark ability to do it over Grbic.

Messi hit the crossbar from a free kick on the edge of the break.

Pereira’s deflected shot fortuitously beat Grbic in the 50th minute, but there was no luck in Kylian Mbappe’s superb curler from 20 meters midway through the second half.

Earlier, Nice missed their chance to take second place and the automatic Champions League berth when they lost 1-0 at home to ailing Clermont.

Winger Elbasan Rashani scored for promoted Clermont in the 77th minute as Nice fell within a point of second-place Marseille.

“Some of the players were perhaps already thinking about Wednesday (and the French Cup quarter-final against Marseille),” Nice coach Christophe Galtier said. “When you don’t respect the opponent, they punish you.”

Elsewhere on Sunday, coach Julien Stephan’s Strasbourg continued their good form by beating Nantes 1-0 at home to advance to fourth place and a place in the Europa League. Veteran midfielder Dimitri Lienard scored in the 73rd.

Stephan’s old team Rennes remain in fifth place after winning 2-0 at home to Brest, with striker Gaetan Laborde and winger Martin Terrier scoring their 11th league goals.

Reims thrashed Bordeaux 5-0, while the match between Troyes and Metz ended 0-0. In addition, Lorient beat Lens 2-0.

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