Paris Saint-Germain 3 Lille 1: Emery's December blues eased
Paris Saint-Germain shook off their December blues to defeat lowly Lille 3-1 and move 12 points clear at the Ligue 1 summit.
The final month of 2017 had yielded back-to-back defeats for PSG as their unbeaten run from the start of the season came to a halt at the hands of Strasbourg in the top flight, before Tuesday's loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
Lille, fresh from consecutive wins, gave PSG a scare in this fixture last season as the hosts needed a last-gasp Lucas Moura goal to secure a 2-1 victory, but their resistance was soon broken at Parc des Princes on Saturday.
Unai Emery's side, without the suspended Neymar, took the lead just before the half-hour mark when Angel Di Maria headed in Kylian Mbappe's cross for only his second league goal of the campaign.
Javier Pastore doubled their advantage four minutes into the second half, punishing sloppy play at the back from the relegation-threatened visitors.
Anwar El Ghazi provided late hope for Lille, but the result was never really in doubt, with PSG making it 32 Ligue 1 games unbeaten at home, including nine wins on the bounce, as Mbappe restored the two-goal margin of victory by rolling into an open goal.
Dani Alves side-footed an early chance well over the crossbar after bursting into space inside the area.
Lille, whose coach Marcelo Bielsa remains suspended by the club, escaped strong appeals for a PSG penalty when Mbappe went down in the box under pressure from Edgar Ie.
PSG goalkeeper Alphonse Areola had to be alert at the other end to sweep up Yassine Benzia's throughball and thwart the advancing Ezequiel Ponce in a rare bright moment for the visitors.
But it was Emery's men who broke the deadlock, Di Maria nodding home emphatically from Mbappe's delivery, although the Monaco loanee appeared to be offside when he gained possession.
A large section of the home crowd thought provider had turned goalscorer a few minutes later, but Mbappe's driven strike flew just wide and rebounded against the back of the net.
The second goal did arrive early in the second half at the end of a quick-thinking move involving Edinson Cavani and Di Maria, with Pastore the man to provide the finish after Lille had carelessly conceded possession in their own half.
Pastore looked to be in on goal again as the game ticked into its final third, but Adama Soumaoro recovered well to deny the Argentine, who tumbled to the floor holding his face despite minimal contact.
Having made a telling contribution, Di Maria was withdrawn late on and Julian Draxler brought on in his place, while Mbappe was denied after Mike Maignan pushed the France international's shot onto his right-hand upright.
The game was awoken from its torpor by a surprise Lille goal, which arrived after Marquinhos gifted the ball away and El Ghazi profited to slot home.
With Lille pushing for an unlikely equaliser, Maignan came up for a corner and PSG countered at pace, Mbappe finishing into the empty net.
Key Opta stats
- PSG have only lost two of their last 37 Ligue 1 games (W30 D5), against Nice in April 2017 (1-3) and against Strasbourg in December (1-2).
- PSG have scored 51 goals in Ligue 1 2017-18, their best ever tally after 17 games of a season in the competition.
- Kylian Mbappe has been involved in 34 goals in Ligue 1 since 2016-17 (21 goals, 13 assists), at least 20 more than any other Under-20 player from the top 5 leagues in the same period.
- Angel Di Maria has scored two goals in his last four starts for PSG in Ligue 1, more than in his previous 10 (1 goal).
- Alphonse Areola has conceded a goal from five of his last seven shots on target faced in Ligue 1.