PARIS: Lionel Messi scored a superb second-half winner as a Paris Saint-Germain side missing the injured Kylian Mbappe and Neymar came from behind to beat Toulouse 2-1 on Saturday and consolidate their lead at the top of Ligue 1.
Dutch midfielder Branco van den Boomen gave mid-table Toulouse the lead at the Parc des Princes from a 20th-minute free-kick, only for Achraf Hakimi to curl in the equalizer with half-time approaching.
Messi then put PSG in front just before the hour mark with a glorious first-time strike on his left foot low into the corner of the net from just outside the area.
It was Messi’s 10th Ligue 1 goal of the season and his 15th for his club this campaign, as the World Cup winner stepped up in the absence of PSG’s two other superstar attackers.
The Qatar-owned club are now eight points clear at the top of the table from Marseille, who play Nice on Sunday and then host PSG in the French Cup last 16 in midweek.
Mbappe will miss that game and the Champions League last-16 first leg against Bayern Munich on February 14 after being ruled out for three weeks with a thigh injury suffered in the 3-1 win at Montpellier last Wednesday.
Neymar missed a second successive game here with an apparently minor adductor problem, meaning it was left to Messi to lead the attack alongside the 20-year-old Hugo Ekitike with support from Vitinha and Carlos Soler.
But Christophe Galtier’s side have other injury issues, with Sergio Ramos unable to play and Renato Sanches forced to come off in tears just 12 minutes into the game.
The Portuguese midfielder was starting for just the fifth time since joining from Lille at the start of the season.
He was replaced by teenage defender El Chadaille Bitshiabu, with Danilo Pereira moving up into the midfield, and the substitute was partly responsible when PSG fell behind.
Bitshiabu was booked for bringing down Zakaria Aboukhlal 25 meters from goal, and Van den Boomen sent the resulting free-kick low into the left corner of the net with Gianluigi Donnarumma beaten.
Messi hit the post from a corner and Toulouse had another goal disallowed for offside before the home side drew level seven minutes from half-time as Hakimi collected a Carlos Soler pass, cut in from the right flank and curled a shot on his left foot into the far corner from 20 meters.
Hakimi then turned provider as he set up Messi to make it 2-1 on 58 minutes and the outcome was rarely in doubt after that with PSG — who have had some recent wobbles — deserved winners.
Substitute Mikkel Desler did force a good save from Donnarumma deep into injury time before Messi hit the post again right at the death.
Lyon visit Troyes later before fifth-placed Rennes host Lille looking for an 11th consecutive home league win.
MANCHESTER: Manchester United got the better of Barcelona to progress to the last 16 of the Europa League…