Lionel Messi collected three assists in a 3-1 win over Saint-Etienne at 10 on Sunday to help Paris Saint-Germain extend their lead atop the French league to 12 points, but the victory was marred by an injury of star striker Neymar.
The Brazilian striker was stretched in the 87th minute after twisting his left ankle under an awkward challenge from Yvann Macon.
“Let’s get over this,” Neymar said on his Instagram account. “Unfortunately, these setbacks are a part of the life of an athlete. That’s how it is, let’s raise our heads up high and let’s go! I will come back better and stronger.
Saint-Etienne opened the scoring against the run of the game in the 23rd minute of the game in snowy conditions. Wahbi Khazri picked Timothee Kolodziejczak, whose shooting was stopped by Gianluigi Donnarumma. But the rebound fell on Denis Bouanga, who beat the Italian goalkeeper.
England goalkeeper Etienne Green delayed the return of PSG by pushing back Neymar’s oblique strike in the 40th and Kylian Mbappe’s weak effort in the 41st.
But Saint-Etienne’s task was made much more difficult on the stroke of half-time when Kolodziejczak was sent off for tripping Mbappe, who was chasing a deep pass from Angel di Maria. Brazilian defender Marquinhos equalized as he came home the next free kick from Messi.
Despite their numerical superiority, PSG struggled to find the winning goal. Green denied Neymar in the 69th and Messi failed to convert the rebound.
PSG finally took the lead in the 79th when Messi found Di Maria, who curled up in the far corner. In stoppage time, Messi scored for Marquinhos, who passed Miguel Trauco to enter.
The match also featured the debut of Sergio Ramos, who has recovered from injury to make his first French league appearance for PSG.
“I am very happy and satisfied,” Sergio Ramos said on the club’s website. “It’s a very special day for me after spending so much time without playing. It’s important for me to have helped the team, to be here with the team and to have played 90 minutes.
Also on Sunday, Rennes extended their unbeaten run to 13 matches in all competitions to snatch second place in the championship with a 2-0 victory in Lorient. Gaetan Laborde scored his ninth league goal with a chip in the 75th before substitute Jeremy Doku doubled the lead with a curling shot in the 78th.
Marseille beat Troyes 1-0 to climb to fourth place, tied on points with third-placed Nice. Spanish midfielder Pol Lirola overcame the offside trap to beat Troyes goalkeeper Gauthier Gallon in the 74th. The match was played behind closed doors after the league sanctioned Marseille for incidents at the Stade Vélodrome on October 24 when supporters threw projectiles at PSG players.
Marseille midfielder Dimitri Payet started the game a week after being hit in the head in Lyon with a bottle filled with water that had been thrown from the stands.
Lyon climbed to seventh place by winning 1-0 in Montpellier. Brazil international Lucas Paqueta rebounded with a header after Islam Slimani’s volley hit the bar.
In the race for Europe, Monaco and Strasbourg drew 1-1 to be six points behind fourth place. French international Wissam Ben Yedder put Monaco ahead with a penalty kick at half-time. Strasbourg striker Ludovic Ajorque equalized in the 48th with his own penalty.
Brest won a fourth consecutive victory, beating modest Bordeaux 2-1. Jérémy Le Douaron scored a brace in the second half after Bordeaux defender Stian Gregersen opened the scoring in the 43rd.
Reims ended a six-game winless streak by edging out the struggling Clermont 1-0. Ivorian international Ghislain Konan unleashed a powerful strike from the bar in stoppage time.
Metz knocked out Nice 1-0 on Saturday as defending champion Lille’s hopes of returning to the race for European places took a hit after a draw with midfielder Nantes 1-1.
Lens drew 2-2 with Angers on Friday and is now fifth.