PSG 4-2 Nantes: Player ratings as Lionel Messi leads Les Parisiens to hard-fought win
By Sean Walsh
Paris Saint-Germain warmed up for their huge Champions League last 16 second leg away at Bayern Munich with a far from routine 4-2 victory against Nantes on Saturday night.
Christophe Galtier's men moved 11 points clear at the top of the Ligue 1 table - a rather sizeable gap considering they were at risk of being dragged into a title scrap a couple of weeks ago.
The hosts took a 12th-minute lead through Lionel Messi at the end of a sweeping team move. The Argentine linked up well with Sergio Ramos on midfield before Fabian Ruiz play switched to Nuno Mendes, whose deflected cross was toe-poked in by Messi after he managed to wriggle his way into the box ahead of dawdling defender Nicolas Pallois.
PSG doubled their lead minutes later. Mendes' low driven shot was denied by the feet of goalkeeper Alban Lafont, and with Nordi Mukiele lurking at the back-post ready to tap in the rebound, Jaouen Hadjam positioned himself to get to the ball first, but instead of clearing he could only deflect the ball trickling back across the line and into the net.
But Nantes surprisingly pulled one back against the run of play after half an hour. Ludovic Blas managed to skip past Vitinha and Mukiele on the right touchline, and seeing a gaping hole at the front post, blasted a shot past a hapless Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Messi came close to re-establishing PSG's two-goal advantage with a quick snap-shot from the edge of the 18 yard box, with his strike sailing just over the crossbar.
Donnarumma nearly cost PSG again when he inexplicably spilled a routine shot by Florent Mollet from range, with Marquinhos managing to scoop the ball away from danger just in time.
But from the resulting corner, Nantes found a leveller. Mollet's corner was flicked up and into the net at the near post by Ignatius Ganago and helped over the line by Jean-Charles Castelletto.
After the break, Mukiele spurned a great chance to restore PSG's lead. Messi threaded a clever ball between two Nantes defenders and into the wing-back's path, and he had the option of either going for goal or squaring to Kylian Mbappe - he stumbled and played a pass behind his teammate, allowing Nantes to clear.
Galtier's men went back in front through an unlikely source on the hour mark. Mbappe dug out a cross after Nantes cleared a corner, with Danilo Pereira rising highest to head home.
Not long after, PSG were awarded a penalty when Hadjam felled Mukiele, though a free-kick was given instead after a lengthy VAR check concluded that the challenge came outside the box.
Mbappe was millimetres from becoming PSG's standalone all-time scorer when a wicked 25-yard strike whistled past the post, before the energetic Warren Zaire-Emery was denied by the feet of Lafont.
The young France goalkeeper was called into action again when Messi carried the ball from midfield and let fly from the edge of the area, though was grateful to see the ball trickle towards his grasp.
At the other end, Ganago came ever so close to equalising again for Nantes, firing a low cutback just wide of Donnarumma's near post.
In stoppage time, substitute Timothee Pembele pulled a cross back for Mbappe to swivel and finish, overtaking Edinson Cavani as the club's all-time scorer.
Paris Saint-Germain player ratings (3-5-2)
GK: Gianluigi Donnarumma - 2/10 - Inspired no confidence whatsoever. Almost singlehandedly opened the door for a Nantes comeback.
CB: Danilo Pereira - 8/10 - Largely untroubled and scored a vital goal for his side.
CB: Sergio Ramos - 7/10 - Stepped into midfield with ease and played the game at his own pace.
CB: Marquinhos - 6/10 - Swept up whatever danger PSG found themselves in.
RM: Nordi Mukiele - 6/10 - A chaotic presence at both ends of the pitch. This approach yielded PSG's second goal, at least.
CM: Fabian Ruiz - 7/10 - Played with a real assurance and maturity that hasn't always been present in his debut season in Paris.
CM: Vitinha - 6/10 - A little unsure of himself at times. Found it harder playing as the deepest of PSG's midfielders.
CM: Warren Zaire-Emery - 7/10 - Ah, the exuberance of youth. The 16-year-old was fearless on both sides of the ball and led by example.
LM: Nuno Mendes - 7/10 - Provided great width. Messi is always able to play that trademark pass the way he used to do with Jordi Alba.
CF: Lionel Messi - 9/10 - A surprisingly dogged display from the little magician, forcing his way into challenges high up the pitch and proving a difference maker on the ball as per.
CF: Kylian Mbappe - 8/10 - Caused all sorts of problems and eventually found his record-breaking goal.
Carlos Soler (71' for Mukiele) - 6/10
El Chadaille Bitshiabu (76' for Marquinhos) - N/A
Timothee Pembelee (87' for Zaire-Emery) - N/A
Christophe Galtier - 7/10 - PSG were largely fine. It's not really Galtier's fault that Donnarumma had a mare.