Neymar disappears as PSG flatter to deceive in fortunate 4-1 win vs. Nantes
PARIS -- Paris Saint-Germain moved six points clear at the top of Ligue 1 with a 4-1 win over Nantes at Parc des Princes on Saturday. Claudio Ranieri's men were well organised defensively but once Edinson Cavani broke the deadlock in the first half, Les Canaris crumbled and the Uruguay international helped himself to another while Argentina international pair Angel Di Maria and Javier Pastore both scored. Despite the convincing final score, Nantes inflicted a lot of the damage upon themselves.
It was not the best PSG performance this season but Unai Emery's men got the job done and took the opportunity presented to them by Monaco's draw away at Amiens on Friday to extend their lead at the top of Ligue 1 to six points.
With a trip to the principality to come next weekend, it was a timely victory to stretch their leaqd over Leonardo Jardim's Monegasque side. A draw away at Stade Louis II would not be a bad result for Les Parisiens but a much better display will be needed.
Deployed -- somewhat surprisingly -- in one of the two more advanced midfield roles, Pastore was another reason for PSG satisfaction. El Flaco scored one goal -- with a massive helping hand from Nantes goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu -- and teed up another in a showing that will give him hope that he can still salvage his PSG future.
Neymar was not at his best against Saint-Etienne earlier in the season but he was downright poor against Nantes in what must be considered his worst outing in Ligue 1 so far.
Emery will also be disappointed with the goal that his team conceded against a side set up almost exclusively to defend. Otherwise, it should not be overlooked that three of PSG's four goals were comical errors from the Nantes back line -- Di Maria, Pastore and Cavani's second should all have been avoided.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Emery sent out a starting XI that went on to win 4-1 but was saved from having to rectify too much by some laughable Nantes defending. The Spaniard also left it until 11 minutes from time to make his first change, once all the damage had been done -- mostly by the visitors to themselves.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Alphonse Areola, 5 -- The youth academy graduate barely had anything to do all match but when Nantes did threaten, the French shot stopper and his defence could and should have done more to keep Prejuce Nakoulma out.
DF Dani Alves, 6 -- With Thomas Meunier out injured, the Brazil international continued at right-back and although he did not excel, he put in a balanced display and assisted Di Maria's goal when the pair linked up on a short corner. The South American could have done more to thwart Nantes scorer Nakoulma, though.
DF Marquinhos, 6 -- The Brazilian, who recently became a father for the first time, was solid alongside captain Thiago Silva at the heart of the defence. However, the Samba star needed to be tighter on Nakoulma for Nantes' goal.
DF Thiago Silva, 6 -- The skipper was largely untested but he was unable to cover Yuri Berchiche and close down the cross in the buildup to Nakoulma's goal for Nantes and had to watch on in horror as the rest of his defence failed to deal with the danger.
DF Yuri Berchiche, 5 -- Handed a start ahead of Layvin Kurzawa at left-back, the Spaniard's showing was balanced but Nantes' consolation goal originally surfaced on his side. The Basque full-back was also booked early in the second half.
MF Adrien Rabiot, 6 -- The France international started slowly but grew into the match before he was eventually replaced by Christopher Nkunku. Combined with Pastore and Marco Verratti, the midfield was more creative than usual.
MF Marco Verratti, 6 -- Like Rabiot, the Italy international took a while to get going but provided Pastore with his goal in the second half. However, he also picked up a booking before Giovani Lo Celso replaced him with 10 minutes to go.
MF Javier Pastore, 7 -- The Argentinian scored one and set up another in a much better display than his no-show away at Angers just before the international break. Les Parisiens' No. 27 made way for Julian Draxler after 80 minutes.
FW Angel Di Maria, 6 -- The Argentina international notched himself a goal but it was rather fortuitous as it was a cross that managed to evade the Nantes defence and not a straight shot. El Fideo and Cavani were more active than strike partner Neymar on the day but it was far from Di Maria's best.
FW Edinson Cavani, 7 -- The Uruguayan scored two but can only really take credit for his first. El Matador's strike to complete the scoring was a gift from the Nantes defence, while his first was a composed finish after Pastore had played him in. PSG's No. 9 went close with a good effort in the first half but got greedy in the second and shot straight at Tatarusanu with Di Maria in space.
FW Neymar, 4 -- The Brazil international struggled with the return to club football and was invisible at times during the match but could have changed that if Cavani had scored from his late pass after an opportunist counter-attack.
MF Giovani Lo Celso, NR -- The Argentina international was sent on for the final 11 minutes but by the time he replaced Verratti, there was little to do.
MF Julian Draxler, NR -- Like Lo Celso, the Germany international was sent on after 79 minutes in Pastore's place but the damage had already been done.
MF Christopher Nkunku, NR -- Five minutes as a late replacement for Rabiot was not really enough for the youth academy graduate, who earned the right to better opportunities last season. This late in the match, he barely got a kick.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.