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PSG edge closer to title as Messi jeered on return

By AFP - May 14,2023 - Last updated at May 16,2023

Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi takes a free kick against Ajaccio during their French L1 match in Paris on Saturday (AFP photo by Franck Fife)

PARIS — Paris Saint-Germain closed in on a record 11th French league title with a 5-0 home win over Ajaccio on Saturday as Lionel Messi received a mixed reception on his return from suspension.

Fabian Ruiz opened the scoring on 22 minutes at the Parc des Princes and Achraf Hakimi added a second goal before Kylian Mbappe struck twice shortly after half-time.

Mohamed Youssouf compounded a miserable night for the Corsicans with an own goal for PSG’s fifth, while Hakimi and Ajaccio midfielder Thomas Mangani were sent off after a late bust-up.

PSG need four points from their final three games — against Auxerre, Strasbourg and Clermont — to secure the Ligue 1 title after restoring their six-point lead over second-placed Lens.

“The players were very determined to put in a proper display. They want to be champions and they realise that Lens aren’t giving up and a misstep could raise the pressure,” said PSG coach Christophe Galtier.

Messi’s name elicited a combination of whistles and applause when it was read out before kick-off after he was banned by the club for last weekend’s match over an unauthorised trip to Saudi Arabia.

The Argentine again drew jeers with his early touches in what was likely his penultimate appearance in Paris ahead of a reported move to Saudi Arabia for the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner.

“So there are whistles but very quickly a large part of the stadium made sure to drown them out to support Leo,” said Galtier.

“He stayed focused with the desire to liven up the game and create chances. He’s used to it because he’s been in difficult situations in his career.” 

Three defeats in their past four home games for PSG had allowed Lens to stay in an unlikely title race, but Ajaccio offered little resistance as their relegation to Ligue 2 was confirmed.

Danilo’s threaded pass was flicked into the path of Ruiz and the Spain midfielder took a couple of smart touches before finishing clinically for his second goal in as many games.

Hakimi then swept in the rebound after Mbappe’s effort was parried by Francois-Joseph Sollacaro, with the goal allowed to stand despite the France striker using his arm to control in the build-up.

Mbappe hit the 25-goal mark for the fourth time early in the second half, slotting beyond Sollacaro after a scramble in the box to take over again as the league’s top scorer this term.

He then produced a brilliant first-time volley to lash in PSG’s fourth minutes later after a long ball forward from Sergio Ramos glanced off the head of a backtracking defender.

An unfortunate Youssouf diverted a shot from Marquinhos into his own net on 73 minutes and both teams finished with 10 players after a challenge on Messi triggered a needless scuffle.

Hakimi, who was sent off against Lorient two weeks ago, received his second red card in as many outings after getting into an altercation with Mangani that also led to his dismissal.

Senegalese forward Habib Diallo scored inside the opening minute of a Ligue 1 game for the third time this year as he got both goals in Strasbourg’s 2-0 win over Nice.

Diallo took his goals tally to 20 for the season and secured a fourth victory in five matches for Strasbourg which lifted them six points clear of the relegation zone.

Over two-thirds of his goals have come since January, when Strasbourg were second from bottom having won just once in 18 games.

His first against Nice came after 40 seconds as he controlled Ibrahima Sissoko’s floated ball over the defence and steered past Kasper Schmeichel.

Diallo added a second from the penalty spot on the hour after Jean-Ricner Bellegarde was brought down in the area by Jordan Lotomba.

He is the first Strasbourg player to reach 20 goals in a top-flight season since 1977-78.

 

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