Thursday, December 8

Ligue 1: Kylian Mbappe ensures PSG get back to winning ways against Saint-Etienne


PARIS — Kylian Mbappe singlehandedly picked Paris Saint-Germain up after last week’s unexpected 3-1 loss away at FC Nantes with two goals and an assist in a 3-1 victory over AS Saint-Etienne at Parc des Princes on Saturday.

The France international equalized for the hosts before halftime and then gave them an early second-half lead after Denis Bouanga had opened the scoring for the visitors and Mbappe then turned provider for Danilo Pereira to atone for his earlier mistake which let Les Verts in.

At 23, the PSG No. 7 now has as many goals for the French giants as Zlatan Ibrahimovic after his latest Ligue 1 brace brought him level at 156 with the giant Swede as the club’s all-time second-best scorer with only Edinson Cavani out in front.

However, 15 minutes into the clash, it did not look likely to happen as Saint-Etienne capitalized on a now traditional sluggish start from Les Parisiens after a Danilo lapse and Mbappe needed a helping hand from visiting goalkeeper Paul Bernardoni in canceling that deficit.

“It was a difficult first half where we lost the ball and were not in good positions without it,” said Presnel Kimpembe post-match. “We rectified that in the second half and did what we needed to and got back in the game. We know our attacking quality, but we also need to have it defensively. We are a team and we need to be united when things get tough .”

Once done, Lionel Messi woke up and combined brilliantly with the Frenchman to create his second and five minutes after that came Mbappe’s sensational outside of the boot assist for Pereira’s towering header as Pascal Dupraz’s hopes of an upset dissipated.

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“I think that the assist was nicer than my goal,” the Portuguese said after the final whistle. “It was a magnificent outside of the boot ball in. It was nice, especially after I made a mess in the first half. We need to make fewer mistakes, but we have a very good second half.”

Both sides expressed their desire to see “peace for all” before kickoff with regards to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine and the PSG home support then held up a banner inviting Mbappe to continue to “write his story” with the Championnat leaders.

The former AS Monaco is yet to extend his contract in Paris with UEFA Champions League opponents Real Madrid keen to lure him away as a free agent but the feeling at Parc des Princes on Saturday was very much that his relationship with the club should continue beyond the summer.

Mbappe’s chances of smashing Cavani’s record this season are slim, but he will surely overtake the Uruguayan legend should he remain beyond the end of this term. The Champions League final being moved to Stade de France in nearby Saint-Denis also offers a unique chance of continental success.

There is some way to go yet before there is a resolution in the saga of Mbappe’s future, but he showed again in the win over Saint-Etienne that it does not get in his way and further underlined his readiness to become the team’s undisputed talisman under Mauricio Pochettino or whoever follows — despite Messi’s improved recent form.

“Amazing,” Pochettino purred about his compatriot after the game. “Beautiful. All that was missing was a goal. Leo played very well and we are very happy because the team feels good and comfortable. Little by little, we are playing better and better.”

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