David scores on birthday as Lille beats Lorient
PARIS — Just one league match into 2024, Paris Saint-Germain is already putting more daylight between the defending champions and its rivals for the French league title.
Despite playing against 10 men in the second half, PSG was far from impressive as it resumed its league campaign Sunday with a 2-0 win at last season's runner-up Lens to extend its lead at the top to eight points.
Second-place Nice lost ground when it was beaten 2-0 by Rennes on Saturday.
Lens had the opportunity to take the lead in the fifth minute but PSG goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma decided otherwise and stopped Przemyslaw Frankowski's penalty.
Forward Bradley Barcola was just as decisive for PSG, first by breaking the deadlock near the half-hour mark, then by earning the foul that led to Lens defender Jonathan Gradit's sending off just before halftime.
“I thought that Barcola was tremendous tonight,” PSG coach Luis Enrique said.
Kylian Mbappé wrapped up PSG's win in the closing stages with his 19th league goal this season.
Danilo found the unmarked Mbappé on the break, and the league’s top scorer set up the 21-year-old Barcola perfectly with a through ball. The former Lyon player won his duel with goalkeeper Brice Samba and scored with his right foot to give PSG the lead in the 29th minute.
Things went from bad to worse for the home team when Gradit was shown a red card after a VAR review following a big foul on Barcola, who had dribbled past several opponents and was approaching the box.
Luis Enrique had to make up for the absence of Achraf Hakimi, who traveled to the African Cup with Morocco, and his tactical approach worked fine in the northern town. He gave a starting spot to Carlos Soler at right-back in a 4-3-3 system, with Barcola starting in attack alongside Mbappé and Ousmane Dembélé.
Ten-man Lens continued to attack after the interval and the match remained tense until the very end with both teams having chances to score but lacking an edge in the final third. Mbappé kept insisting and finally found the net from a tight angle from Dembélé's assist at the end of a counterattack.
Lens remained in eighth place, 17 points behind PSG.
BIRTHDAY BOY DAVID SCORES
Canada's Jonathan David scored his sixth goal of the season on his 24th birthday as Lille ended a three-match winless run with a 3-0 win against Lorient.
David broke the deadlock in the 37th minute from a set piece as he headed the ball home at the far post from Angel Gomes's cross.
The result moved Lille to fifth in the standings, just two points behind fourth-place Monaco. Lorient dropped to last place, with only two wins from 18 matches.
Lille was in control and created several other chances before Remy Cabella made it 2-0 with three minutes left to play with a left-footed shot from close range. Forward Edon Zhegrova was dangerous throughout the afternoon and was rewarded with a goal in added time.
Brest posted a fourth-consecutive win — 2-0 at Montpellier — to move into the top three.
Goals from Hugo Magnetti and Jeremy Le Douaron ensured a 10th win in 18 matches for the small Brittany side, which is unbeaten since November and leapfrogged Monaco in the standings.
Brest's surge up the table was largely unexpected when the struggling club appointed Eric Roy as its coach in January 2023, with hopes that the 55-year-old would help the club remain in the top division.
At the time, Brest was in the relegation zone, two points from safety.
In other matches, an early penalty from Vincent Sierro helped struggling Toulouse to a 1-0 win at Metz. The win ended a 10-match winless run for the southwestern side. Metz had several chances but only two on-target attempts. Also, Clermont rose from last place to 17th after beating Nantes 2-1, and Le Havre defeated Lyon 3-1.
Lyon played with 10 men for more than an hour after Jake O’Brien was shown a red card in the 29th minute and finished the match with nine players following Duje Caleta-Car's dismissal in the closing stages.
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