Paris Saint-Germain took another step towards retaining the Ligue 1 title as Kylian Mbappe’s early brace proved enough to win at relegation-threatened Auxerre on Sunday night.
Mbappe finished off a flowing move before curling in a beauty from the edge of the box, but the visitors’ intensity dropped off and Lassine Sinayoko’s fine finish at the start of the second half set PSG nerves racing.
However, they held off late Auxerre pressure to all but wrap up another league title. They sit six points ahead of Lens with two games to go, with a 15-goal advantage in goal difference.
PSG made only one change to the side that smashed Ajaccio 5-0 last Saturday with Warren Zaire-Emery coming in for the suspended Achraf Hakimi.
Marco Verratti had a brief injury scare ealy on before the visitors took a firm grip of the game with two quick Mbappe goals.
The first came in the sixth minute as an incisive passing move looked to have gone wrong on the edge of the box before Fabian Ruiz prodded the ball to Mbappe, who twisted Gauthier Hein one way and then the other before firing into the top corner from close range.
Only two minutes later, the France captain picked out almost the same spot from further out. A sloppy giveaway saw Messi direct play towards Hugo Ekitike, who ran over the ball to allow Mbappe a free strike on goal, one he took with aplomb to curl beyond home goalkeeper Ionut Radu.
Auxerre, themselves still trying to claw away from the bottom four, were handed a good chance when Marquinhos fluffed a headed clearance straight to Rayan Raveloson, but the Madagascar international’s strike came clattering back off the woodwork.
Mbappe’s searing pace on the counter remained a massive threat, however, and he almost helped put PSG out of sight by teeing up Ekitike. The young striker just failed to sort his feet out in time to convert into an open net from two yards out.
Christophe Galtier’s side started the second half poorly, giving Auxerre a sniff of a result as Sinayoko halved the deficit.
A long punt forward was flicked on by Nuno Da Costa and into Sinayoko’s path, the 23-year-old escaping the attention of Sergio Ramos and Danilo Pereira long enough to crack a fierce effort through Gianluigi Donnarumma’s legs.
PSG did respond with a good chance of their own as Messi slipped in Mbappe, but Radu was alive enough to charge off his line and deny Mbappe the space to score.
Auxerre looked to crank up the pressure late on in search of an equaliser, but it was Mbappe who struck the back of the net next, though the strike was ruled offside.
PSG can officially secure the title in their next fixture at Strasbourg on Saturday night.
GK: Ionut Radu (6); RWB: Akim Zedadka (6), CB: Rayan Raveloson (8), CB: Jubal (6), CB: Souleymane Toure (7), LWB: Gideon Mensah (7); RM: Gauthier Hein (6), CM: Han-Noah Massengo (7), CM: Birama Toure (7), LM: Lassine Sinayoko (8); ST: Nuno Da Costa (7)
Substitutes: Gaetan Perrin (N/A), M’Baye Niang (N/A), Siriki Dembele (N/A)
GK: Gianluigi Donnarumma – 7/10 – Seemed to flop over the ball when Sinayoko struck. Did make some stunning and important saves to keep PSG’s lead in tact.
CB: Marquinhos – 7/10 – Had a couple of clumsy clearances but was often the defender arriving late to clear up the danger.
CB: Sergio Ramos – 6/10 – Beaten by Da Costa in the build-up to Auxerre’s goal but repelled most of what was thrown at him and his defence.
CB: Danilo Pereira – 7/10 – Only misplaced two of his 90 passes. Tried to pepper the ball into the final third with varying levels of success.
RWB: Warren Zaire-Emery – 6/10 – Fairly quiet as Hakimi’s replacement on the right.
CM: Marco Verratti – 8/10 – One crucial challenge prevented Auxerre pulling another back. Made three tackles in the middle of the park.
CM: Fabian Ruiz – 7/10 – Prodded the ball forward to Mbappe to open the scoring. Disruptive in the tackle.
LWB: Juan Bernat – /10 – Enjoyed a couple of surging runs in the second half, though wasn’t overly comfortable runnings towards his own goal.
AM: Lionel Messi – 6/10 – Grabbed an assist for Mbappe’s second. Looked a bit lonely out there and didn’t help himself with a rather passive display otherwise.
ST: Hugo Ekitike – 6/10 – Nice awareness to leave the ball for Mbappe but just had a couple of gilt-edge chances go begging elsewhere.
ST: Kylian Mbappe – 9/10 – Mbappe’s early goals sealed the win and he might have got a few more on another day had the service been better.
Vitinha (55′ for Eikitike) – 6/10 – Rarely misplaced a pass but Auxerre enjoyed more possession which Vitinha couldn’t prevent.
Renato Sanches (79′ for Ruiz) – N/A
Christophe Galtier – 6/10 – Could have put the game to bed earlier but saw his side sit back and protect instead. Attacking efforts seemed to be little more than ‘give it to Mbappe’, which isn’t the worst tactic in the world.