Moise Kean’s goal gave Paris Saint-Germain a 2-1 win over Nice on Saturday as they shrugged off the absence of Neymar to provisionally go back to the top of Ligue 1, while title rivals Lyon were beaten at home by Montpellier.
Kean struck in the 76th minute for his 10th Ligue 1 goal since joining PSG on loan from Everton, handing Mauricio Pochettino’s side the points after Julian Draxler’s opener had been cancelled out by Rony Lopes at a freezing Parc des Princes.
It was a morale-boosting result for PSG, three days before they face Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie, and it allowed them to go top of the table on goal difference from Lille, who play Brest at home on Sunday.
PSG also benefited from a slip-up by Lyon, who are two points off the pace in third after a shock 2-1 home defeat at the hands of a mid-table Montpellier side.
“Today in the circumstances I think we need to be happy. We are in the position we need to be in,” PSG coach Pochettino told Canal Plus.
“I think we controlled the game and deserved the victory. We didn’t play great but I think it was a very professional performance.”
PSG are expected to be without Neymar for at least the next three weeks after the world’s most expensive player came off with a groin injury in a midweek French Cup win at second-tier Caen, a huge blow ahead of the trip to Barcelona.
Angel di Maria will also be out for that game, and the Argentine watched the visit of Nice from the stands next to Marco Verratti, another key player on the injury list just now.
PSG were knocked out of the Champions League in the last 16 in each of Neymar’s first two seasons with the club, defeats against Real Madrid and Manchester United both coming after the Brazilian suffered an untimely injury.
– ‘No excuses’ –
After reaching the final last season, the fear now is that another injury to their talisman could prove fatal to their hopes against Barcelona.
“We are missing some important players but we have a squad in whom we can trust,” insisted Pochettino.
“It is always better when you have everyone available but of course we are going to try to win the game and there can be no excuses.”
Pochettino handed starts to Kean and Mauro Icardi alongside Kylian Mbappe in attack against Nice, as PSG sported a pink and violet-coloured fourth kit with player names on the back in Mandarin to mark the Lunar New Year.
The new look inspired the home side to go in front midway through the first half thanks to Draxler, who followed up to net after Icardi had turned Thilo Kehrer’s cross onto the post, the German scoring on his first league start since October.
However, Nice drew level five minutes into the second half when Marquinhos attempted a pass out from the back but only succeeded in finding Lopes, who picked up the ball on the edge of the box and fired high into the net.
Keylor Navas then turned Amine Gouiri’s shot onto the bar with PSG on the ropes, but Pochettino’s side grabbed the winner with just under quarter of an hour left, Kean heading in after Icardi had returned Mbappe’s centre back across goal.
Lyon came into the weekend looking for their sixth straight win, and had lost just once in 22 games since losing away in Montpellier in September.
Teji Savanier headed the visitors in front, but Lucas Paqueta levelled for Lyon just before half-time, pouncing to score from close range after Houssem Aouar’s header had been saved.
Nevertheless Montpellier grabbed what proved to be the winner on 65 minutes, as teenager Elye Wahi was left with an easy finish after goalkeeper Anthony Lopes failed to properly deal with Savanier’s wicked free-kick.
Monaco in fourth can now move to within a point of Lyon if they can make it eight straight league wins when they host Lorient on Sunday.