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Messi jeered on return as PSG edges closer to historic title

Updated: 2023-05-15 09:07
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Kylian Mbappe celebrates scoring Paris Saint-Germain's fourth goal with Lionel Messi during Saturday's 5-0 win over Ajaccio at Parc des Princes in Paris. [Photo/Reuters]

PARIS — Paris Saint-Germain closed in on a record 11th French league title with a 5-0 home win over Ajaccio on Saturday as Lionel Messi received a mixed reception on his return from suspension.

Fabian Ruiz opened the scoring on 22 minutes at Parc des Princes and Achraf Hakimi added a second goal before Kylian Mbappe struck twice shortly after halftime.

Mohamed Youssouf compounded a miserable night for the Corsican side with an own goal for PSG's fifth, while Hakimi and Ajaccio midfielder Thomas Mangani were sent off after a late bust-up.

PSG needs four points from its final three games — against Auxerre, Strasbourg and Clermont — to secure the Ligue 1 title after restoring its six-point lead over second-placed Lens.

"The players were very determined to put in a proper display. They want to be champions and they realize that Lens aren't giving up and a misstep could raise the pressure," said PSG coach Christophe Galtier.

Messi's name elicited a combination of whistles and applause when it was read out before kickoff after he was banned by the club for the previous weekend's match over an unauthorized trip to Saudi Arabia.

The Argentine again drew jeers with his early touches in what was likely his penultimate appearance in Paris ahead of a move for the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner — Saudi Arabia, former club Barcelona and Inter Miami have all been reported as possible destinations.

"So there are whistles but very quickly a large part of the stadium made sure to drown them out to support Leo," said Galtier.

"He stayed focused with the desire to liven up the game and create chances. He's used to it because he's been in difficult situations in his career."

Three defeats in its past four home games for PSG had allowed Lens to stay in an unlikely title race, but Ajaccio offered little resistance as the minnow's relegation to Ligue 2 was confirmed.

Danilo's threaded pass was flicked into the path of Ruiz and the Spain midfielder finished clinically for his second goal in as many games.

Hakimi then swept in the rebound after Mbappe's effort was parried by goalkeeper Francois-Joseph Sollacaro.

Mbappe hit the 25-goal mark for the fourth time early in the second half, slotting beyond Sollacaro after a scramble in the box.

He then produced a brilliant first-time volley to lash in PSG's fourth. An unfortunate Youssouf diverted a shot from Marquinhos into his own net on 73 minutes and both teams finished with 10 players after a challenge on Messi triggered a scuffle.

Hakimi, who was sent off against Lorient two weeks ago, received his second red card in as many outings after getting into an altercation with Mangani, who was also dismissed.

Express Diallo

Senegalese forward Habib Diallo scored inside the opening minute for the third Ligue 1 game this year as he got both goals in Strasbourg's 2-0 win over Nice.

Diallo took his goal tally to 20 for the season and secured a fourth victory in five matches for Strasbourg which lifted it six points clear of the relegation zone.

Over two-thirds of his goals have come since January, when Strasbourg was second from bottom.


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