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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Hakimi heroics maintain Messi-less PSG’s 100% start

Paris—Achraf Hakimi’s dramatic injury-time winner rescued Paris Saint-Germain a 2-1 victory at bottom club Metz on Wednesday as the capital giants maintained their 100 percent start to the Ligue 1 season despite the absence of the injured Lionel Messi.

Former Barcelona icon Lionel Messi was absent with a knee injury. 

Moroccan full-back Hakimi, a 60-million-euro signing from Inter Milan this year, gave PSG a fifth-minute lead before Kiki Kouyate’s equalizer.

But a chaotic climax to the match saw Metz reduced to 10 men and have their coach Frederic Antonetti sent to the stands before Hakimi’s 94th-minute strike.

“The team fight to the end and never admit defeat, they have this ability to surpass themselves, with character, and the reward came at the end,” said PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino.

PSG went into the new season as red-hot favourites to regain their French title after a raft of close-season signings, including six-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi.

The former Barcelona icon was absent with a knee injury and Pochettino’s men struggled against winless Metz.

But PSG extended their early advantage at the top of the table to seven points over rivals Marseille—who drew 0-0 at third-placed Angers—after a seventh victory from as many league games.

Hakimi pounced early on but PSG were far from their best and Kouyate headed home from a corner six minutes before the break.

Visiting goalkeeper Keylor Navas had to make a good save to deny Lamine Gueye a goal on the stroke of half-time, while Metz appeals for a penalty for handball against Hakimi early in the second period were turned down.

The real drama came after the clock had ticked past the 90 minutes, though, as Metz defender Dylan Bronn was shown a second yellow card for kicking the ball away.

Coach Antonetti was then promptly dismissed.

PSG made the most of their brief man advantage as Hakimi latched onto Neymar’s excellent pass, cut inside and fired into the bottom corner left-footed.

Paris, champions in seven of the last nine seasons, celebrated wildly, with Neymar booked in the aftermath.

Shaqiri off the mark

Xherdan Shaqiri scored his first Lyon goal since joining from Liverpool as his new side saw off Troyes 3-1.

Xavier Chavalerin gave Troyes a half-time lead, but Shaqiri’s brilliant shot into the top corner dragged Lyon level.

His fellow close-season arrival Emerson Palmieri completed the turnaround before Lucas Paqueta added a third.

After a poor start to the campaign, Lyon have won three of their last four matches to climb to sixth in the table.

Nice are a place below them after Amine Gouiri missed a penalty for the second straight match in a 1-0 loss at Lorient.

It was the first Ligue 1 defeat of the season for the club financed by British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe and Ineos.

Thomas Monconduit scored the only goal midway through the first half for Lorient before Gouiri, who also failed from the spot late on in Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Monaco, missed again in the 55th minute. 

Lille get second win

Struggling Ligue 1 champions Lille held on to beat Reims 2-1 to claim just their second win of the season.

Canada forward Jonathan David put the hosts ahead at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy just after the half-hour mark and midfielder Benjamin Andre doubled the advantage before the break with his first goal of the campaign.

Lille, who saw title-winning coach Christophe Galtier leave in the close season for Nice, came through a nervy final 15 minutes after Alexis Flips’ penalty cut the deficit for Reims.

Monaco are above Lille on goal difference after also sealing their second league win this term by seeing off 10-man Saint-Etienne 3-1.

In a Ligue 1 first, Monaco made six substitutes due to the new concussion protocols as Krepin Diatta had to be replaced after a clash of heads with Yvan Neyou.

Elsewhere, Rennes bounced back from three straight losses by thrashing Clermont 6-0, while Nigerian Samuel Kalu rescued Bordeaux a 3-3 draw at Montpellier.

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