Messi’s assists help PSG top Saint-Etienne
Lionel Messi had three assists in a 3-1 win over 10-man Saint-Etienne yesterday to help Paris Saint-Germain extend their lead atop the French league to 12 points but the victory was marred by an injury to star striker Neymar.
The Brazil forward was stretchered off in the 87th minute after twisting his left ankle under an awkward challenge from Yvann Macon.
"Let's recover from this," Neymar said on his Instagram account. "Unfortunately these setbacks are part of an athlete's life. It is what it is, let's put our heads up high and let's go at it! I will come back better and stronger."
Saint-Etienne opened the scoring against the run of play in the 23rd minute of the game played in snowy conditions. Wahbi Khazri picked out Timothee Kolodziejczak, whose shot was saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma. But the rebound fell to Denis Bouanga, who beat the Italy goalkeeper.
English goalkeeper Etienne Green delayed PSG's comeback by palming away Neymar's angled strike in the 40th and Kylian Mbappe's low effort in the 41st.
But Saint-Etienne's task was made much harder on the stroke of halftime when Kolodziejczak was sent off for tripping Mbappe, who was chasing a through ball from Angel di Maria. Brazil defender Marquinhos equalised by heading home the subsequent free kick taken by Messi.
Despite their numerical superiority, PSG struggled to find the winning goal. Green denied Neymar in the 69th and Messi failed to convert the rebound.
PSG eventually took the lead in the 79th when Messi found Di Maria, who curled into the far corner. In stoppage time, Messi crossed for Marquinhos, who outjumped Miguel Trauco to head in.
The game also featured the debut of Sergio Ramos, who recovered from injury to make his first appearance in the French league for PSG.
"I'm very happy and satisfied," Sergio Ramos told the club's website. "It's a very special day for me after having spent so much time without playing. It's important for me to have helped the team, to be here with the squad and to have played 90 minutes."