PARIS (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain was only minutes away from a fourth consecutive loss on Sunday when Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi came to the rescue to avert a major crisis at the Qatari-backed club.
The French league leaders gave away a two-goal lead and were trailing by one goal with four minutes left before Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi turned things around to transform a fiasco in the making into a 4-3 win against Lille.
As PSG looked headed for yet another setback, Mbappe snatched a late equalizer at the Parc des Princes. Messi then slotted home the winner deep in added time from a free kick, with a lethal left-footed shot into the bottom right corner.
“I will simply say that it’s a great relief,” PSG coach Christophe Galtier said.
The hard-fought win followed a 1-0 defeat at home midweek against Bayern in the Champions League that came after a 3-1 defeat to Monaco in the league and another loss against bitter rival Marseille in the French Cup.
PSG kept a five-point lead over second-place Marseille, which kept the pressure on the leaders with a 3-2 win at Toulouse ahead of their clash next week at the Stade Velodrome in the biggest match in French soccer.
After playing just half an hour against Bayern after returning from a thigh injury, Mbappe was back in Galtier’s starting lineup. His impact throughout made up for PSG’s defensive inadequacies and lapses of concentration.
PSG led 2-0 after 17 minutes with goals by Mbappe and Neymar but the French champions then conceded three times — with Bafode Diakite, Jonathan David and Jonathan Bamba all scoring — and lost Neymar through injury.
There were obvious signs of nerves amid the PSG ranks from the start.
The hosts were immediately under pressure as Tim Weah’s shot took a deflection and Gianluigi Donnarumma was forced into a reflex save to stop the ball with his feet. PSG defender Presnel Kimpembe then put Donnarumma in a difficult situation when he headed the ball back toward the keeper, only to set up David for a one-to-one. The Lille forward appeared surprised by the unintended assist and his right-footed shot was not good enough to beat the Italy keeper.
Looking fragile, PSG relied on Mbappe to lead the way.
Set up by Neymar, the France forward burst down the left and cut inside to come face to face with Tiago Djalo and Diakite. Mbappe nutmegged Djalo and forced his way between the pair, then beat goalkeeper Lucas Chevalier with a low shot in the 11th minute.
PSG doubled its lead with a quick collective move ignited and concluded by Neymar, who slotted the ball into an empty net. Neymar was forced off the field on a stretcher in the second half after twisting his right ankle.
Despite the comfortable cushion, PSG looked shaky and could not dictate the play. The hosts often found themselves pegged back in their half and did not hold onto their lead for long.
Lille was rewarded for its efforts from a set piece in the 23rd minute, with Diakite heading the ball home from Andre Gomes’ cross after a corner.
Things took a turn for the worse for PSG after Marco Verratti pulled Djalo’s jersey in the box, prompting the referee to signal a penalty amid protests from PSG players and staff. David took the kick and coolly wrongfooted Donnarumma to level.
Bamba then put Lille in the driving seat with a superb strike from a tight angle into the top corner, leaving Mbappe shaking his head in disbelief.
Mbappe did not give up, though, and put PSG back in the match when he latched onto a back pass from Juan Bernat to slot the ball into the back of the net before Messi delighted PSG fans with his free kick.
Elsewhere, goals from Aleksandr Golovin and Myron Boadu gave third-place Monaco a 2-1 win at Brest and Lens beat Nantes 3-1 to remain in fourth place, eight points behind PSG.
Lorient beat Ajaccio 3-0, Rennes forward Arnaud Kalimuendo scored twice in a 2-0 defeat of Clermont while Wahbi Khazri scored a late winner to lead Montpellier to a 1-0 win at Troyes.