Paris Saint-Germain opened up a 15-point lead at the top of Ligue 1 on Saturday night thanks to a mostly routine win over Clermont Foot on the road – Rennes had temporarily inched slightly closer after victory a few hours earlier, while Marseille will play on Sunday.
Kylian Mbappe and Neymar each scored hat-tricks for PSG, who ran up the score-line in the second half after Clermont had briefly threatened to make things uncomfortable.
Neymar, who had been on fire against Lorient a week ago, needed only a few minutes to break the deadlock in favour of the visitors from the capital when he was played in by Messi.
Messi was only narrowly denied by the fingertips of Arthur Desmas soon after, even if the officials failed to award the corner. But the Argentine then turned provider again when he controlled Neymar’s cross on his chest and knocked the ball beyond the defenders into Mbappe’s path, who in turn touched it over the onrushing Desmas to double PSG’s lead.
Mauricio Pochettino’s team looked like they should have been in cruise control, yet took their foot off the gas and allowed Clermont to get back into it shortly before the break as Jodel Dossou turned in a ball fizzed across the penalty area – Sergio Ramos was drawn out of the middle, Presnel Kimpembe didn’t get close enough to stop the cross and Gianluigi Donnarumma couldn’t reach it.
Neymar forced a good save from Desmas that would have restored the two-goal cushion as PSG looked to respond before the half-time whistle.
Desmas and Donnrumma were both called into action at opposite ends around the hour mark, Messi then had the ball in the net via his head, but Mbappe was offside in the build up. But PSG did finally restore their two-goal cushion from the spot when Neymar sent Desmas the wrong way – Mbappe’s drive into the area had drawn a naïve sliding tackle from Akim Zedadka that the defender mis-timed.
PSG’s fourth was the pick of the bunch as a pinpoint Neymar pass over the top with the outside of his foot eliminated the Clermont defence. Mbappe knocked it beyond Desmas as he controlled the ball and turned it into an empty net, wheeling away to celebrate his 30th goal of the season.
His 31st and hat-trick goal was just as good, cutting inside as he received the ball from Messi and lashed it ball past Desmas into the far corner. He could have had his fourth only moments after that, but instead chose to lay the ball off for Neymar so he too could get a hat-trick.
PSG player ratings
1. Goalkeeper & defenders
Gianluigi Donnarumma (GK) - 5/10 - A little erratic at times.
Achraf Hakimi (RB) - 6/10 - Got into dangerous attacking positions a few times. Quieter in the second half than in the first.
Sergio Ramos (CB) - 5/10 - Not met with a chorus of jeers, unlike last week. Looked like a player lacking match practice.
Presnel Kimpembe (CB) - 5/10 - Captained the side in Marquinhos' absence. Mostly in control but just on his heels for the goal.
Nuno Mendes (LB) - 6/10 - Defensively strong - literally, during in a few moments - and very willing to charge forward.
Danilo Pereira (CM) - 6/10 - Not outstanding but certainly competent.
Marco Verratti (CM) - 7/10 - Always in control.
Idrissa Gueye (CM) - 7/10 - Plays the easy balls, yet can't fault his passing accuracy and ability to win the ball back and recycle possession.
Lionel Messi (RF) - 9/10 - Laid on two goals in the opening 20 minutes, with a third in the closing stages for a hat-trick of assists. Thought he'd scored one of his own but an offside flag ruled it out.
Kylian Mbappe (ST) - 10/10 - Took his first goal well and looked sharp in general, before getting PSG's fourth and fifth with two more fine finishes. Also won the penalty with a direct and driving run.
Neymar (LF) - 10/10 - Picked up where he left off a week ago, striking early. Completed his own hat-trick with a composed penalty, although his pass for Mbappe's second was arguably the single most impressive thing he did.
Georginio Wijnadlum (CM) - 6/10
Thilo Kehrer (CB) - 6/10
Edouard Michut (CM) - N/A
Eric Ebimbe (RB) - N/A