Messi scores as leader PSG wins 5-1 at defending champ Lille

Gabriel Gudmundsson of Lille OSC challenges Lionel Messi of Paris Saint-Germain during the Ligue 1 Uber Eats match between Lille OSC and Paris Saint-Germain at Stade Pierre Mauroy on February 6, 2022 in Lille, France.

Lionel Messi had one of his best games for Paris Saint-Germain as the runaway leader profited from bad goalkeeping to win 5-1 at defending champion Lille and move 13 points clear in the French league on Sunday.

The first two goals were gifted while the third was well taken by the record seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi in the 37th minute for only his second league goal since joining from Barcelona. Lille caused PSG problems but defended poorly.

PSG drew and lost to Lille last season without scoring a goal. Lille conceded only 23 goals during that victorious campaign, but standout goalkeeper Mike Maignan’s departure to AC Milan has proved costly and Lille has already allowed 35.

The difference was evident when Lille goalkeeper Ivo Grbic made an awful blunder in the 10th, spilling a routine cross from the left into the path of Danilo Pereira for a tap-in.

Former France winger Hatem Ben Arfa, who had an unhappy two-year spell at PSG from 2016-18, made a lively debut for Lille after joining the 10th club of his fluctuating career.

Central defender Sven Botman equalized in the 27th, turning in a cross following Ben Arfa’s superb run down the left. Ben Arfa showed great skill skating past Angel Di Maria, despite having little space, then flicking the ball while off-balance to the waiting Botman.

It was a belated reminder of the 34-year-old Ben Arfa’s exquisite yet perhaps wasted talent.

Grbic then made another inexplicable error as he failed to move for a corner, clumsily letting it drift over him as center back Presnel Kimpembe scored from close range.

He was not at fault on PSG’s third goal, yet his defense was. It failed to clear the ball and allowed it to land at the feet of Messi.

The Argentina star showed his trademark skill to dink it over Grbic. Messi hit the crossbar with a free kick on the stroke of halftime.

Pereira’s deflected strike fortuitously flew past Grbic in the 50th, but there was nothing lucky about Kylian Mbappe’s superb curler from 20 meters midway through the second half.

Presnel Kimpembe of Paris Saint-Germain celebrates his sides third goal Lionel Messi of Paris Saint-Germain during the Ligue 1 Uber Eats match between Lille OSC and Paris Saint-Germain at Stade Pierre Mauroy on February 6, 2022 in Lille, France.

Earlier, Nice missed its chance to take second place and the automatic Champions League spot when it lost 1-0 at home to struggling Clermont.

Winger Elbasan Rashani scored for promoted Clermont in the 77th minute as Nice stayed one point behind second-place Marseille.

“Some of the players were perhaps already thinking about Wednesday (and the French Cup quarterfinal against Marseille),” Nice coach Christophe Galtier said. “When you don’t respect the opponent you get punished.”

In other matches Sunday, coach Julien Stephan’s Strasbourg continued its fine form by beating Nantes 1-0 at home to move into fourth spot and a Europa League place. Veteran midfielder Dimitri Lienard netted in the 73rd.

Stephan’s former side Rennes remains one back in fifth after winning 2-0 at home to Brest, with striker Gaetan Laborde and winger Martin Terrier grabbing their 11th league goals.

Reims routed Bordeaux 5-0, while the game between Troyes and Metz ended at 0-0. Also, Lorient beat Lens 2-0.

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