PARIS: Neymar conjured up a moment of magic as French league leaders Paris Saint-Germain beat Troyes 2-0 on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) to pull 10 points clear of Marseille at the summit.
PSG thrashed Troyes 9-0 the last time the sides met in March 2016, but Edinson Cavani saw his first-half penalty saved by Mamadou Samassa at the Parc des Princes.
Unai Emery’s side appeared to be running out of ideas and heading towards their first dropped points at home this term before Neymar crashed in a terrific left-footed strike to break the deadlock on 73 minutes.
Cavani then atoned for his missed spot-kick by wrapping up victory in the final minute as he netted for a league-best 17th time this season, the Uruguayan scoring for the seventh game in a row.
“‘Edi’ (Cavani) and Neymar didn’t have their best day and they managed to score goals like that, they are great players and we’re lucky to have them here,” PSG midfielder Marco Verratti told Canal+.
“Neymar is one of the best players in the world and can do something good for the team at any moment. He scored a very important goal.”
Earlier, Florian Thauvin starred as Marseille moved second after cruising to a 3-0 victory at lowly Metz, while Lyon lost to managerless Lille and Monaco were beaten at Nantes.
Rudi Garcia’s Marseille are now unbeaten in 10 league games, while Lyon and Monaco sit two points further behind with Bruno Genesio’s men third, above the champions on goal difference.
Thauvin opened the scoring in the 18th minute at bottom club Metz, who still only have four points this season.
The 24-year-old persevered to cut inside his marker, before curling an excellent finish into the far corner for his seventh league goal of the season.
Brazilian international midfielder Luiz Gustavo took advantage of some woeful Metz defending to make it two before half-time, and Argentinian winger Lucas Ocampos rounded off a comfortable win with 19 minutes to play.
Lille claimed a shock 2-1 away victory over in-form Lyon in their second game since suspending head coach Marcelo Bielsa, as home skipper Nabil Fekir missed a second-half penalty on his return from illness.
“It was an off day I think. There are no accidents in football. We didn’t play a good match,” Fekir said.
Lille winger Thiago Mendes produced a wonderful individual goal in the 21st minute to put Lyon’s 12-match unbeaten run under threat, as he jinked into space and bent a left-footed strike into the top corner.
But the hosts didn’t waste much time in drawing level, as Mariano Diaz beat Lille goalkeeper Mike Maignan to Tanguy Ndombele’s cross and headed in his 10th Ligue 1 goal since joining Lyon from Real Madrid.
Struggling Lille hit back, though, to retake the lead in the 40th minute as Kevin Malcuit’s simple right-wing cross picked out an unmarked Ezequiel Ponce to nod home.
Lyon were given a chance to equalise again shortly after the break, but captain Fekir’s weak penalty was saved by Maignan.
Mendes should have put the game to bed when he volleyed wide with the goal at his mercy, but Lille held on for a much-needed win that dragged them out of the bottom two and into the relegation playoff spot.
Reigning champions Monaco suffered a third straight defeat in all competitions as Claudio Ranieri’s Nantes grabbed a 1-0 win with an injury-time winner.
Looking to bounce back from their 2-1 loss to PSG at the weekend, Monaco were hit by a sucker-punch as full-back Lima drilled in from the edge of the area in the third minute of added time.
“It was important to score and to win after two defeats. These are three golden points against the champions,” Ranieri said.
Mario Balotelli’s penalty helped 10-man Nice come from behind to win 2-1 at Toulouse, as Tunisian Bassem Srarfi’s last-gasp strike pulled the away side clear of the relegation zone.