Lionel Messi helped Paris Saint-Germain get back to winning ways in Ligue 1 in his first game since winning the World Cup, scoring in a 2-0 victory against Angers on Wednesday.
Hugo Ekitike put PSG ahead inside five minutes at Parc des Princes as the 20-year-old continued his recent form in front of goal, before Messi clinched the points with just under 20 minutes to go with a typically stylish finish as the defending champions extended their lead at the top of the league to six points.
After being beaten 3-1 in their previous league outing by title rivals Lens, Christophe Galtier was able to recall Messi and Neymar back into the team for the visit of bottom-of-the-table Angers.
Abdel Bouhazama did not name star players Azzedine Ounahi and Sofiane Boufal in his starting XI, with both being linked with moves away in the January transfer window, though the latter came off the bench for the final half-hour.
After a minute’s applause was observed to pay respect to the late Pele, PSG started with intent as Ekitike swept Nordi Mukiele’s low cross from the right past Angers goalkeeper Paul Bernardoni to score in his third-consecutive game.
It should have been 2-0 midway through the first half when Sergio Ramos got on the end of a Messi free-kick, only for Bernardoni to make a smart save from the Spaniard’s header, before also denying Messi with a stop to his left just after the half-hour mark.
Angers started the second half well as PSG struggled to put the game to bed, and Abdallah Dipo Sima should have done better when in acres of space on the right of the hosts’ penalty area on the hour, but he blazed his shot over the bar.
Messi had a nervous wait to see if he had doubled the lead in the 72nd minute after he ran onto a Mukiele pass to roll the ball into the bottom-left corner of the net, with a VAR review eventually overruling the initial decision of offside, much to the Argentine’s delight and PSG’s relief.
PSG player ratings (3-4-2-1)
GK: Gianluigi Donnarumma – 5/10 – Didn’t have much to do but still didn’t look all that convincing.
CB: Marquinhos – 7/10 – Hardly gave the ball and not really tested without it.
CB: Sergio Ramos – 7/10 – Nearly scored a first half diving header. Carried the ball forward in the build up to the killer second goal. Defensively sound.
CB: Danilo Pereira – 6/10 – Angers’ very few chance came from his side.
RM: Nordi Mukiele – 9/10 – Had a lot of space to run into on the right. Two fine assists and only denied a goal of his own by a great save.
CM: Fabian Ruiz – 6/10 – Near flawless in position, but didn’t do as much as his midfield partner in terms of creating or winning it back.
CM: Vitinha – 8/10 – Great on both sides of the ball.
LM: Juan Bernat – 6/10 – Functional up and down the left.
AM: Lionel Messi – 7/10 – Not his most influential performance until suddenly bursting into life to score and seal the result with just 20 minutes to go. The perfect way to return.
AM: Neymar – 5/10 – Disappointingly quiet until the final 15 minutes.
ST: Hugo Ekitike – 8/10 – Taking the early chance was important for his confidence stepping in for Mbappe. Well-taken goal to break the deadlock. Had other opportunities and played an important role to help create Messi’s strike.
SUB: Warren Zaire-Emery (79′ for Ruiz) – 6/10
SUB: Carlos Soler (80′ for Ekitike) – 6/10
SUB: El Chadaille Bitshiabu (86′ for Vitinha) – N/A
Christophe Galtier – 6/10 – Had a number of players missing that would ordinarily start. The team on the pitch lost momentum midway around an hour in, but he opted to try and ride it out rather than attempt to change things up.
Angers player ratings (4-4-2)
GK: Bernardoni (8); RB: Bamba (6), CB: Hountondji (6), CB: Blazic (6), LB: Doumbia (6); RM: Capelle (6), CM: Mendy (5), CM: Bentaleb (6), LM: Abdelli (7); ST: Hunou (6), ST: Sima (5)
Subs: Salama (6), El Melali (6), Boufal (6), Thioub (6), Taibi (5)