Clubs, French Ligue 1, Nice, Paris Saint-Germain, Story

Angel Di Maria once again proved his worth with a double that earned Paris Saint-Germain a 4-1 win at Nice and a five-point lead in the Ligue 1 standings on Friday.

The result put PSG on 24 points from 10 games as Nice, who reduced the arrears in the second half through Ignatius Ganago, finished with nine men after Wylan Cyprien and Christophe Herelle were sent off during the last 20 minutes.

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“The most important thing was to win. We started well and made the most of the space. I am very happy. The coach trusts me, which boosts my confidence. I want to repay his belief in me on the pitch,” Di Maria told Canal+ after the match.

Kylian Mbappe came off the bench in the closing stages to round off the win to mark his return from injury with a close-range finish and Mauro Icardi added the fourth for PSG.

With Mbappe and Edinson Cavani on the bench and Neymar injured, Icardi started up front but it was Di Maria who got PSG going.

Icardi flicked the ball into the path of Di Maria, who raced into the area and beat Walter Benitez from close range to put the visitors ahead in the 15th minute.

Benitez was beaten again six minutes later when Di Maria was played through on the right flank by Leandro Paredes and found the back of the net with a lovely angled lob.

“I fed him the ball so he could tee somebody up. Nobody was in the middle, though, so his genius spoke instead,” Thomas Meunier told reporters afterward about Di Maria. “He always plays with great freedom when he can dictate the game. One moment, he is missing easy control, the next he is scoring this goal.”

PSG comfortably held off Nice, until Ganago, set up by Kasper Dolberg, unleashed a fierce strike that went under the bar in the 67th minute.

But their hopes of levelling were dashed in the 74th minute when Cyprien was shown a second yellow card for protesting to referee Francois Letexier, who three minutes later handed Herelle a straight red card for elbowing Paredes.

“There was a foul against him and he got upset, there’s no logic there,” Ganago said of Cyprien’s red card.

Mbappe made his return from a thigh injury in the 82nd minute as he replaced Pablo Sarabia, scoring with a low shot from inside the box six minutes later.

One minute into added time, Icardi netted for the third match in a row when he tapped in from Mbappe’s cross.

PSG manager Thomas Tuchel downplayed the win and pointed out that PSG still had room to improve.

“We had chances to kill the match in the second half with some incredible counter-attacks, but we lacked conviction,” Tuchel said. “At 2-0 to us, they had nothing to lose and took risks. Marquinhos committed two mistakes and we conceded. Their goal was perhaps a good thing to get us to refocus.

“Our first half was very good as we played with quality and shot often. Nice were unable to play. It was good to perform like that after an international break and before a Champions League game.”

The result leaves Nice in ninth on 13 points.

Nantes, who are second on 19 points, will play Metz on Saturday with Lyon’s new coach Rudi Garcia making his debut at home against Dijon in the day’s opening match.

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