Controversy has shrouded PSG in recent weeks, as Lionel Messi is rumoured with a sensational return to Barcelona ahead of next season, while Kylian Mbappé has criticised the club for their use of an interview to promote season tickets. With two of the club’s star attackers potentially less than content in the French capital, would that affect their performance as they headed south on Saturday night?
Christophe Galtier’s side made their way to the Allianz Riviera, where they’d face Didier Digard’s OGC Nice side. After a tricky start to the season under Lucien Favre, Digard appears to have les Aiglons back above water and competing – they haven’t lost a league game since the Frenchman took over in early January (W6, D6).
NCE: Schmeichel; Bard, Dante, Todibo, Ndayishimiye, Mendy; Thuram, Boudaoui, Ramsey, Pepe; Moffi
PSG: Donnarumma; Pereira, Ramos, Marquinhos; Mendes, Soler, Sanches, Vitinha, Hakimi, Mbappé, Messi
Lionel Messi came close to opening the scoring in the opening few minutes for PSG, as the Argentine cut onto his left foot and released a strike from twenty-five yards out – but to the relief of Kasper Schmeichel, the World Cup Winner’s effort curled wide of the post.
It was all PSG in the opening stages, and the Parisians looked to test Schmeichel once again as Nuno Mendes picked up the pieces from a poor Nice clearance, but his first-time strike sailed over the crossbar without really threatening the Danish international.
Nice grew into the game well though, as Khéphren Thuram looked to link up with Hicham Boudaoui on the edge of the box – but a great interception from Danilo Pereira denied the Algerian the opportunity to find Antoine Mendy’s run. Nicolas Pepe found Terem Moffi inside the area just before the twenty-minute mark, but the Nigerian’s weak effort was saved comfortably by Gianluigi Donnarumma. Nice seemed more comfortable at a slower pace than their opponents, before unleashing sudden burst of pace in a bid to mislead the PSG defences.
It was PSG that had the next chance though, and Pereira should really have found the back of the net as he rose highest inside the area to nod a cross towards Schmeichel’s goal – but his effort struck the woodwork!
The visitors didn’t have to wait long to take the lead though, as Lionel Messi made amends for his earlier miss by getting onto the end of Nuno Mendes’ cross before firing it past Kasper Schmeichel to give PSG a one-goal lead.
The rest of the first half played out in a rather dull manner, except for a chance for Nicolas Pepe just minutes before the interval. The winger managed to get onto the end of a great cross, but Donnarumma was able to make himself big and deny the Ivorian the equaliser.
The second half started in sensational fashion, as Dante’s thunderous effort hit the crossbar! The defender’s initial header didn’t really go anywhere, but he swung himself around rather acrobatically to hammer a shot on goal – but the woodwork prevented him from bringing his side level.
Nice continued to probe though, and forced Donnarumma into action as Youssouf Ndayishimiye’s strike from the edge of the box was parried away by the Italian shot-stopper. It had certainly been an end-to-end game so far, and Didier Digard’s side were far from beaten with half an hour left to play.
Nicolas Pepe found Jean-Clair Todibo with an in-swinging corner ten minutes later, and the French defender did well to meet the ball and divert it towards goal – but an even better save from Donnarumma denied Nice the equaliser once again.
Despite the hosts’ constant pressure throughout the second half, it was PSG that found the game’s second goal. Lionel Messi’s cross in found Sergio Ramos, and the Spaniard headed home into the bottom left corner to put the game to bed. With just fifteen minutes left to play, Nice would have to do something unbelievable if they were to rescue anything from this game.
Gaetan Laborde looked to reduce the deficit from the edge of the box, but his speculative strike sailed wide of the left post. Despite the inevitable result, it had certainly been a spirited performance from Didier Digard’s side – and Khéphren Thuram in particular had been impressive.
Kylian Mbappé should have made it three for the visitors though in stoppage time, but the Frenchman missed from close range! Achraf Hakimi’s initial effort was saved by Kasper Schmeichel, but Mbappé looked to fire the rebound into the back of the net – though he shot well over the crossbar.
Ultimately though, Mbappé’s miss won’t matter all too much for Christophe Galtier. His side move six points clear of second-place RC Lens, with eight games left to play. The next game could be crucial for PSG, as they welcome Lens to the Parc des Princes in a title fight six-pointer.
As for Nice, they remain 8th – just a point behind Will Still’s Stade de Reims. The pressure is on for Didier Digard’s team though, as Olympique Lyonnais and Lorient sit just a point behind the Allianz Riviera side. Up next for les Aiglons is a trip to Brest, who currently sit fifteenth in the league.