Messi, Mbappe score twice as PSG reaches Champions League last 16
PARIS—Paris St Germain’s Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe both scored twice, with Neymar also on target, as the French club’s fearsome attack tore apart Maccabi Haifa in a 7-2 win to send them into the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday.
The irrepressible trio were simply too much for Maccabi to handle although the Israeli side showed plenty of spirit in the Group H clash, with Abdoulaye Seck scoring twice.
PSG’s romp means with one game remaining against already-eliminated Juventus they top the standings on goal difference from Benfica with 11 points.
Despite their heavy defeat, Maccabi remains level on three points with Juve and will go into their last game at home against Benfica still hopeful of sealing a Europa League spot.
Christophe Galtier’s side took a while to find their attacking rhythm but once they clicked they were devastating as they threatened to surpass their 7-1 rout of Celtic in 2017.
“The 4-3-3 system meant the front three could be a little higher up the pitch and they had a little more freedom in their movements thanks to the work of the midfield,” Galtier said.
“It’s a privilege to have those players and to see them play like that, for each other.”
Messi started things off in the 19th minute with a sumptuous opening goal scored with the outside of his left foot after being played in by Mbappe on the left side of the area.
Mbappe’s opener was just as silky, the French forward bending a right-footer in the 32nd minute past Maccabi goalkeeper Joshua Cohen who could not be faulted for any of PSG’s goals.
It began to turn ugly for Maccabi three minutes later when Mbappe and Messi combined to play in Neymar and the Brazilian’s shot went in on off the post.
PSG switched off defensively to allow an unmarked Seck to head in from Omer Atzili’s free kick but Messi then swapped passes with Neymar before dropping his shoulder and belting a left-footed shot low into the corner to make it 4-1 at halftime.
It took Messi’s Champions League total to 129, 12 behind the record of Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
Maccabi actually bossed the opening 10 minutes of the second half and when PSG made a hash of clearing a corner, Seck looped a header over Gianluigi Donnarumma and into the net.
The visiting fans celebrated joyously but PSG then moved through the gears to run riot.
In the 64th minute Mbappe was picked out by a diagonal pass from Achraf Hakimi and he took a deft touch before picking out the far corner. As Maccabi finally lost heart Neymar’s dribble and low cross ended with Sean Goldberg netting an own goal.
Messi, who was denied a record ninth Champions League hat-trick by the crossbar, then set up Carlos Soler to wrap up the scoring with a low shot.
“We caught Paris on a good day. The smallest slip in concentration against players like that and they can score or have a big chance,” Maccabi defender Dylan Batubinsika said.
“We managed to score twice today, which is a positive, and we can still finish third in the group.”
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