Angel Di Maria netted his first Ligue 1 goal of the season but then went off injured as Paris Saint-Germain overcame Nantes 2-0 on Saturday.
Di Maria had started both of Argentina’s two World Cup qualifiers during the international break, but head coach Unai Emery opted against resting the winger for this clash at Parc des Princes.
The former Real Madrid and Manchester United attacker had come in for criticism in some quarters for his performances so far this season, although ex-Benfica and Argentina team-mate Javier Saviola was one man to lend his backing earlier this week.
And Di Maria looked full of purpose here, scoring the opening goal inside a quarter of an hour before he appeared to pick up a hamstring injury and had to be replaced by Hatem Ben Arfa.
Reports in the second half suggested the substitution was only a precautionary measure, with PSG travelling to Arsenal for a crunch Champions League clash on Wednesday which will likely decide the winner of Group A.
Substitute Jese Rodriguez converted a 90th-minute penalty for his first PSG goal as the capital club recorded a 13th straight victory over Les Canaries, Emery’s men climbing into second above Nice, who visit Saint-Etienne on Sunday.
Di Maria had fired off 32 unsuccessful attempts in Ligue 1 this season, but it proved to be 33rd time lucky as he struck to give his side the lead in the 13th minute.
Blaise Matuidi released Jean-Kevin Augustin and although the striker was felled by Diego Carlos as he cut inside, the ball ran perfectly for Di Maria to sweep home first time.
Nantes were not deterred by falling behind, however, and Guillaume Gillet forced a good save from Kevin Trapp with an acrobatic effort midway through the half.
Di Maria’s confidence was evident as he attempted to lob goalkeeper Remy Riou from just inside the Nantes half, but his contribution was soon cut short as he was forced to depart.
Trapp was called into making two superb saves as the half drew to a close – the first to keep out an errant header from Thiago Silva and the second to deny Yacine Bammou’s mishit cross.
Perhaps with the warning words of Emery ringing in their ears, PSG came out with intent in the second period and Matuidi thundered a strike against the left-hand upright.
Bammou drew a furious response from team-mate Fernando Aristeguieta when he shot wide instead of squaring the ball, and that represented Nantes’ final opportunity to salvage something as Jese made them pay.
Javier Pastore impressed as a second-half sub, and it was the Argentinian who won the late spot-kick, drawing a foul from Diego Carlos which allowed Jese to send Riou the wrong way.
Pastore was then forced off following a heavy challenge to give Emery plenty to ponder ahead of the midweek trip to Emirates Stadium.
Key Opta stats:
– PSG have won their last 12 games in all competitions against Nantes, their best run against an opponent in their history.
– Nantes have won only three of their last 20 away games in Ligue 1 (D7 L10).
– Di Maria scored his first goal in Ligue 1 2016-17, with his 33rd shot.
– Thiago Motta had 141 touches against Nantes. Only one player has done better in Ligue 1 this season: Thiago Motta, against Bordeaux (165).