Lionel Messi helped Paris Saint-Germain get back to winning ways in Ligue 1 in his first game since winning the World Cup, scoring in a 2-0 victory against Angers on Wednesday.
Hugo Ekitike put PSG ahead inside five minutes at Parc des Princes as the 20-year-old continued his recent form in front of goal, before Messi clinched the points with just under 20 minutes to go with a typically stylish finish as the defending champions extended their lead at the top of the league to six points.
After being beaten 3-1 in their previous league outing by title rivals Lens, Christophe Galtier was able to recall Messi and Neymar back into the team for the visit of bottom-of-the-table Angers.
Abdel Bouhazama did not name star players Azzedine Ounahi and Sofiane Boufal in his starting XI, with both being linked with moves away in the January transfer window, though the latter came off the bench for the final half-hour.
Le Paris Saint-Germain s’impose Angers !
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_inside) January 11, 2023
After a minute’s applause was observed to pay respect to the late Pele, PSG started with intent as Ekitike swept Nordi Mukiele’s low cross from the right past Angers goalkeeper Paul Bernardoni to score in his third-consecutive game.
It should have been 2-0 midway through the first half when Sergio Ramos got on the end of a Messi free-kick, only for Bernardoni to make a smart save from the Spaniard’s header, before also denying Messi with a stop to his left just after the half-hour mark.
Angers started the second half well as PSG struggled to put the game to bed, and Abdallah Dipo Sima should have done better when in acres of space on the right of the hosts’ penalty area on the hour, but he blazed his shot over the bar.
Messi had a nervous wait to see if he had doubled the lead in the 72nd minute after he ran onto a Mukiele pass to roll the ball into the bottom-left corner of the net, with a VAR review eventually overruling the initial decision of offside, much to the Argentine’s delight and PSG’s relief.
What does it mean? Galtier’s men extend lead despite uninspired display
Albeit a routine win, it was an oddly timid attacking performance from the Parisians.
Neymar failed to fire and, until Messi’s fine finish, it looked like youngster Ekitike would be the only contributor to the win of the forward line.
Angers had lost nine straight Ligue 1 games coming into this one, but only had to face nine shots against a team that has found the net 48 times in 18 league games.
Ekitike quick off the mark again
While he will surely be out of the team when Kylian Mbappe returns, Ekitike did his job again as he made it three goals in his last three appearances.
Notably, he seems to be focused from kick-off as all three have come in the opening 13 minutes of games
Neymar no more than a footnote
This was Neymar’s first league game back since getting sent off against Strasbourg, but he may as well have stayed in the stands in truth.
The Brazilian registered a personal expected goals rate of just 0.04 from the one shot he managed in the contest and lost possession 21 times, more than anyone else.
PSG are away to Rennes on Sunday while Angers host Clermont Foot on the same day.
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