Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Paris Saint-Germain 5 Montpellier 1: Di Maria hits screamer as champions cruise

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 20 Feb 2019

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Paris Saint-Germain extended their lead at the top of Ligue 1 to 15 points after Angel Di Maria scored the pick of the goals in an emphatic 5-1 victory over Montpellier.

After Layvin Kurzawa’s opener for the champions was cancelled out by Florent Mollet in some style, Di Maria struck a wonderful curling free-kick that crashed in off the crossbar and set the tone for the rest of the evening at Parc des Princes.

Thomas Tuchel’s men were at their free-flowing best and Christopher Nkunku netted a header before Montpellier captain Hilton turned Kylian Mbappe’s shot into his own net.

Mbappe got one himself as PSG showed no signs of missing the injured Neymar or Edinson Cavani on a night when they made their lead at the top of the table look all the more unassailable.

Kurzawa headed the hosts into the lead when he connected with Dani Alves’ curling cross from the right, glancing the ball down into the bottom-left corner of Benjamin Lecomte’s net.

Di Maria should have doubled the lead when he went one-on-one with Lecomte but fired straight at the goalkeeper’s legs and shortly after the visitors were level.

Mollet bent a free-kick from just outside the box towards the top right corner, where Gianluigi Buffon managed to push it away but only after the ball had crossed the line, goal-line technology confirmed.

But the best of the first half was still to come as Di Maria stepped up in stoppage-time to send a blistering free-kick around the wall and in off the underside of the crossbar from all of 30 yards to restore his side’s advantage.

Julian Draxler fired just wide from 12 yards at the start of the second half and Lecomte made a superb one-handed save to deny Mbappe at close range.

PSG had two goals disallowed for offside, first when Mbappe finished off a sweeping set-piece and moments later when Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting chipped Lecomte in a one-on-one, with the flag having been raised on both occasions.

The hosts’ third goal eventually arrived when Nkunku connected with a corner and his header was diverted past Lecomte by the head of Petar Skuletic, who was attempting to force it wide but succeeded only in finding the net.

Hilton endured a bizarre end to the game as he got the final touch on PSG’s fourth and fifth goals, twice getting in the way of shots from Mbappe but on both occasions deceiving Lecomte and ensuring the final score was an emphatic one.

What does it mean? One hand on the trophy

Second-placed Lille would need PSG to lose five games in order to catch them and that looks highly unlikely, even with the injuries in Tuchel’s squad. The champions are playing in a manner that would leave even their most ardent rivals hard-pressed to claim they do not deserve to retain the title.

Mbappe leads the line

There was a time when the absence of Neymar and Cavani would have worried PSG’s supporters, but the form of Mbappe and Di Maria at the moment means they are never short of creativity and firepower.

Hilton checks out

It was a nightmarish second half for the Montpellier captain, who got a touch on the last two goals but was hapless to do anything to prevent them.

Key Opta Facts:

– PSG have lost only one of their last 17 games against Montpellier in Ligue 1 (W8 D8).
– PSG have picked up 65 points after 24 games in Ligue 1 this season – the second-best tally for a team at this stage of a season. (Also PSG in 2015-16 with 66 points).
– Montpellier have conceded nine goals in their last two away Ligue 1 games at PSG, as many as in their previous six.
– Kylian Mbappe has been involved in 47 goals in 46 games for PSG in Ligue 1 (33 goals, 14 assists). 
– Layvin Kurzawa has scored and delivered an assist in the same Ligue 1 game for the second time in his Ligue 1 career after 3 February 2016, with PSG against Lorient.

What’s next?

PSG will hope to make it four straight Ligue 1 wins when they face Nimes on Saturday, while Montpellier have a tricky home game against Reims.

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