Neymar on target on 100th PSG appearance

Neymar made his 100th appearance for Paris Saint-Germain on Friday 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 Argentine was appointed as coach on January 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.

“I feel good. I am happy to be back,” he said.

PSG are now three points clear of second-placed Lille, who go to in-form Rennes on Sunday. Lyon in third 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-euro ($264m) 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 back in form –

Mbappe was more prominent in this game, however, as he scored his first goals of the Pochettino era.

Pochettino said: “I was already happy with Mbappe’s performances before tonight. I am pleased that he scored because scoring goals is crucial for a striker’s confidence. But we knew it was only a matter of time.”

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. The coach later said he thought it was “nothing serious” for either player.

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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