Kylian Mbappe scored the winning goal in stoppage time as Paris Saint-Germain prepared to face Real Madrid in the Champions League with a 1-0 win over Rennes in the Ligue 1 on Friday.
Mbappe hit the net from a crucial pass to Lionel Messi in the third minute of extra time at the Parc des Princes, after earlier witnessing a skewed shot that bounced off the post and denied a goal from the strongest offside calls.
The result allows Paris Saint-Germain to extend its massive lead at the top of the French standings to 16 points before second-placed Marseille play in Metz on Sunday.
However, the nature of Mauricio Pochettino’s team performance indicates that they will face difficulty when they visit Real Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 next Tuesday.
Apart from Mbappe’s interference, the evening was the highlight of the “Ultra” groups who gave outright support at the Parc des Princes by not taking their seats until half an hour into the match.
When they appeared they displayed a series of banners to show their displeasure with the club’s management, particularly Leonardo’s sporting director.
“The fans have the democratic right to express their opinion, but we need to be all together for an important part of the season,” Pochettino said.
“There are things we are still trying to correct and we need self-criticism if this club is going to become one of the best in the world.”
Mbappe’s future still dominates the headlines in Paris, and is even more heading towards facing Madrid, with expectations continuing that he will move to the Spanish capital at the end of this season when his contract expires instead of signing a new deal with her. Paris Saint-Germain.
While Neymar scored his 21st goal in all competitions this season to determine the match, Messi’s influence was again limited, at least until he set the winning goal.
The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner continues to cast a shadow of his former image in Paris, but the hope should be that the Champions League meeting with Real Madrid will yield the best results in it.
It remains to be seen if Neymar will be able to play any part in that match, which he has not participated in since late November due to injury.
“We need to be careful when it comes to talking about expectations. It might be there but let’s see how things develop in the coming days,” Pochettino said of the fitness of the world’s most expensive player.
“If all goes well he might be in the team and I hope he will be.”
With the Brazilian out, and Angel Di Maria and Mauro Icardi both left on the bench at kickoff, potential 18-year-old Dutchman Xavi Simmons alongside Messi and Mbappe kicked off Paris’ attack against Rennes.
Mbappe saw a shot hit the post five minutes before the end of the first half, and Simmons was unable to follow the result.
Messi then played in Mbappe an hour later, and this time the French star shook the net only to disallow the goal as VAR photos revealed he was narrowly ahead of the last defender.
Having already inflicted his only defeat of the season at PSG back in October, Rennes was comfortably headed for the point that would have him back in the top four.
But then Messi found Mbappe in injury time and this time it was not denied.