Neymar on target as PSG warm up for Man City with crucial victory


Paris (AFP) – Neymar scored one goal and laid on the other as Paris Saint-Germain warmed up for the second leg of their Champions League semi-final against Manchester City with a vital 2-1 win over Lens in Ligue 1 on Saturday.

Neymar netted on 33 minutes and his corner was headed home by Marquinhos just prior to the hour mark at the Parc des Princes, with Cameroonian forward Ignatius Ganago pulling a goal back for Lens.

It was a huge three points for PSG in their attempt to retain the Ligue 1 title, as Mauricio Pochettino’s side move provisionally two points clear of Lille at the top of the table.

However Lille can return to the summit by beating Nice at home later on Saturday, while third-placed Monaco will return to within a single point of PSG if they defeat Lyon on Sunday.

PSG are looking to win their eighth Ligue 1 title in nine years and, given how close the title race is in France this season, they could not afford to take it easy in between the two legs of their Champions League tie against City.

Last season’s Champions League runners-up are up against it after losing 2-1 at home to Pep Guardiola’s side in the first leg, with the return in Manchester on Tuesday.

With that match in mind, Kylian Mbappe was rested against Lens as he nurses a calf knock, and Pochettino made six changes to his line-up in total. Angel Di Maria was also left out of the starting XI.

Lens had beaten the Parisians at home back in September and travelled to the capital on a run of 13 games unbeaten that saw them come into the weekend in fifth, just ahead of Marseille in the fight for France’s last European qualifying berth.

However PSG went ahead when Argentine defender Facundo Medina tried to play the ball back towards his own goal under pressure and only succeeded in teeing up Neymar, who took a touch and scored just his seventh Ligue 1 goal of the season.

Pablo Sarabia came close to adding to PSG’s lead before the break but they went 2-0 up on 59 minutes.

Marquinhos had scored with a header from a corner against City and he repeated the trick here, heading in Neymar’s delivery from the edge of the six-yard box.

Lens got one back straight from the restart as Arnaud Kalimuendo’s attempted overhead kick from a Jonathan Clauss cross turned into a perfect assist for Ganago to score.

However, Lens could not find an equaliser and PSG thought they had a late third goal when Mauro Icardi turned in substitute Marco Verratti’s low centre.

However, an offside flag against Verratti cut short the celebrations.

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