Kylian Mbappe stepped off the bench to convert a penalty as Paris St Germain won 2-0 at Nantes to extend their lead at the top of Ligue 1 to 14 points.

Mbappe, who told PSG on Friday of his intention to leave in the summer when his contract expires, struck his 21st league goal of the season from the spot after Lucas Hernandez had given his side a second-half lead.

Amid mounting speculation that Mbappe will join Real Madrid in time for next season, the 25-year-old, along with Ousmane Dembele and Achraf Hakimi, were left out of Luis Enrique’s starting line-up.

Mbappe, who started and scored in PSG’s 2-0 win against Real Sociedad in Wednesday night’s Champions League last-16 tie, was in dispute with his club over his contract last summer.

The France forward refused to sign a one-year extension clause and was subsequently exiled from the first-team squad, and left out of their pre-season tour to Asia.

But he was all smiles with boss Enrique as he waited to enter the action at the Stade de la Beaujoire just after Hernandez had broken the deadlock, and was handed the captain’s armband after going on.

At the end of a first half of few clear-cut chances, Nantes twice went close and had a goal ruled out for offside.

Hernandez’s last-ditch tackle thwarted Douglas Augusto and was deemed legitimate by VAR before Marquinhos blocked Nicolas Cozza’s shot after Gianluigi Donnarumma had saved Mostafa Mohamed’s effort.

Nantes thought they had broken the deadlock when defender Nicolas Pallois turned home a corner, but his effort was ruled out by the referee assistant’s flag.

Pallois’ dipping 30-yard volley was comfortably saved by Donnarumma early in the second half and PSG took the lead on the hour-mark through Hernandez’s deflected shot.

Mbappe, Dembele and Hakimi were all sent on by Enrique straight after Hernandez’s opener and the visitors put the result beyond Nantes with 12 minutes remaining.

Augusto tripped Mbappe in the penalty area and the France forward picked himself up to slam home the spot kick for his 26th goal in 28 appearances for his club in all competitions this season.

Nantes went close to a late consolation goal when Donnarumma pushed substitute Moses Simon’s effort on to a post as PSG extended their unbeaten league run to 17 matches.

South Africa survived a late penalty scare to knock pre-tournament favourites Morocco out of the Africa Cup of Nations and reach the quarter-finals.

Bafana Bafana were the better side and eventually ran out 2-0 winners over the 2022 World Cup semi-finalists – who had Sofyan Amrabat sent off in the closing stages after Achraf Hakimi had missed from the spot.

South Africa won just one group game to reach the knockout stages while Morocco had dominated Group F as they went in search of just a second AFCON title.

It was Hugo Broos’ side, however, who would hit the front as Evidence Makgopa finished off a flowing move with a low strike just before the hour.

Morocco toiled for an equaliser and were presented with the perfect chance to level from the penalty spot with just five minutes remaining.

A VAR check saw South Africa defender Mothobi Mvala penalised for handball but Hakimi smashed the resulting spot-kick against the crossbar.

Things went from bad to worse for Morocco as they chased the game, with Amrabat sent off for tripping Teboho Mokoena as he bore down on goal.

The Manchester United loanee thought he had been given a reprieve as VAR intervened but instead they recommended referee Mahmood Ismail upgrade the second booking to a straight red.

To add insult to injury, Mokoena dusted himself off to brilliantly convert the resulting free-kick and send South Africa into a quarter-final clash against Cape Verde.

Hakim Ziyech fired Morocco into the last 16 of the Africa Cup of Nations as Group F winners after a 1-0 victory over Zambia.

The Chelsea midfielder, currently on loan at Turkish club Galatasaray, scored the game’s only goal at Stade Laurent Pokou in San Pedro with an emphatic finish seven minutes before the break.

That was enough to clinch the three points and top place with DR Congo claiming runners-up spot following a 0-0 draw with Tanzania, meaning Zambia’s involvement is over.

In a tight start to the game, Morocco defender Achraf Hakimi and Zambia striker Patson Daka both took aim, but could not hit the target, and genuine chances were few and far between despite enterprising play from both sides.

Sofiane Boufal twice and Azzedine Ounahi were similarly inaccurate as the beaten World Cup semi-finalists attempted to impose themselves as the half wore on.

Kennedy Musonda tested Morocco keeper Yassine Bounou’s concentration with a 30th-minute strike from distance, but it took a vital touch from defender Frankie Musonda at the other end seconds later to prevent Ismael Saibari from reaching skipper Ziyech’s cross in front of goal.

Zambia were fortunate not to concede 10 minutes before the break when defender Nayef Aguerd headed wide from Ziyech’s cross, but the 30-year-old rammed home the opener within three minutes after keeper Lawrence Mulenga had spilled a low cross.

Mulenga parried Ayoub El Kaabi’s header as Morocco looked to kill the game off, but they headed for the dressing room just a single goal to the good.

Half-time substitute Amine Adli twice forced saves as Walid Regragui’s men continued their search for a second goal after the break, although Lameck Banda came close to an equaliser with 59 minutes gone.

Zambia redoubled their efforts as Morocco tired with Lubambo Musonda shooting just too high and Emmanuel Banda forcing a save with substitute Fashion Sakala causing problems, but there was no way back.

Goals from Romain Saiss, Azz-Eddine Ounahi and Youssef En Nesyri fired Morocco to a 3-0 win over Tanzania in a one-sided Africa Cup of Nations opener.

Former Wolves defender Saiss struck in the first half but, despite their total dominance, Morocco had to wait until the unfancied Tanzanians were reduced to 10 men late in the second half before finishing them off.

While Morocco could boast the likes of Paris St Germain defender Achraf Hakimi and Manchester United midfielder Sofyan Amrabat, Tanzania started with Tarryn Allarakhia of Wealdstone in attack.

Thus, the gulf in class between the World Cup semi-finalists and the minnows who have never won a match at the AFCON was clear, but Morocco could not find a way through until the 30th minute.

Ibrahim Hamad’s foul on Hakim Ziyech gave the Chelsea winger, on loan at Galatasaray, the chance to get the first shot on target of the match.

Ziyech’s fierce free-kick was beaten out by Tanzania goalkeeper Aishi Manula but Saiss was following up and buried the rebound.

Ziyech, becoming increasingly influential down the right, then swung in a cross which En Nesyri headed over before forcing a decent near-post save from Manula.

As half-time approached, Abdessamad Ezzalzouli blazed over from a tight angle as Tanzania somehow made it to the break only trailing by one.

Tanzania were pushing their luck with some physical challenges and a predictable second yellow card ended Novatus Miroshi’s involvement 20 minutes from time.

Morocco then doubled their lead when Ounahi played a slick one-two with substitute Amine Adli before slotting past Manula.

Moments later Ounahi crossed for Sevilla striker En Nesyri to tuck in the third and ensure the Atlas Lions got off to a winning start.

Morocco boss Walid Regragui has told his players to forget about their World Cup heroics as they prepare to launch their Africa Cup of Nations campaign against Tanzania.

The Atlas Lions head into the tournament as one of the favourites to lift the trophy after their remarkable performance in Qatar, where they became the first African side to reach the semi-finals before losing 2-0 to eventual runners-up France.

They kick off their latest quest for glory against Group F Tanzania at the Stade Laurent Pokou in San Pedro on Wednesday, with Regragui taking nothing for granted.

He told a press conference: “Since the start of the competition, there haven’t been any easy matches. Our first match is important for us to enter the competitive atmosphere.”

The sides last met in a World Cup qualifier in November last year when Hakim Ziyech and a Lusajo Mwaikenda own goal secured a 2-0 win for Morocco.

Regragui, who boasts Paris St Germain defender Achraf Hakimi and Manchester United midfielder Sofyan Amrabat among his squad, will be without defender Noussair Mazraoui through injury.

The Taifa Stars, who have made the finals for just the third time, have included four players in their squad who are currently plying their trade at non-league level in England.

 

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Defender Haji Mnoga, who is on loan at Aldershot from Portsmouth, Wealdstone frontman Tarryn Allarakhia and Boreham Wood midfielder Mohammed Sagaf are all playing in the National League, while forward Ben Starkie is on the books at Northern Premier League Premier Division Ilkeston Town.

 

Head coach Adel Amrouche, who tempered earlier comments criticising the Royal Moroccan Football Federation’s influence over the African game, said: “I spoke out a month ago, saying they are one of the best teams in the world. They reached the semi-final.

“They are not a team that win by luck, they win with their abilities. They deserve.”

Paris St Germain boss Luis Enrique expects his Ligue 1 pacesetters to face a tough test at Lens’ Stade Bollaert-Delelis on Sunday.

The capital club have not won at the venue since 2014, losing twice during their last three visits and drawing the other.

Lens have slipped to seventh after winning just one of their last three matches but Enrique is aware of their qualities.

The 53-year-old Spaniard told a press conference: “They have all the ingredients a top-level team could want.

“They are almost unbeatable at home, they play good football and they get good results – and they don’t give you time to think.

“Each game is a challenge. Regardless of the level of the opponent, there is always a goal to achieve.

“Of course tomorrow we are facing a team almost unbeatable at home, who play good football, press high and take up good spaces when they are on the ball.

“They put in a lot of crosses and make it dangerous for you with their attackers, who are good at getting into spaces.

“We already faced them at the Parc des Princes and it was a great game. If they (the PSG players) hadn’t been inspired, Lens would have won.

“It is a really good test for us at a fantastic stadium with an amazing atmosphere, so I am very excited.

“The only thing I wouldn’t forgive my team for is that if they are not brave or daring. That has been the case in every game this season.”

The PSG boss, who saw his team win 9-0 at amateur team Revel in the French Cup last time out, was giving little away about his team selection.

However, he did not complain about being without Achraf Hakimi and Lee Kang-in, who are on international duty with Morocco and South Korea respectively.

Enrique continued: “I am the coach and I decide who plays. We never complain about player absences. If I start to do that, imagine what the situation would be for other coaches in Ligue 1.

“We have to solve all problems that come up during the season.”

The manager ominously insisted his defending champions – who are currently five points clear at the top of the table and unbeaten away from home – would get stronger as the season progressed.

He explained: “I have known for a long time that we would be better in February. Of course you want the team to be a better team but the team will be stronger in February, March, April and May.

“I’m a really optimistic person and I think the hard work by the players is paying off.”

Kylian Mbappe's double helped Paris Saint-Germain take another step towards retaining their Ligue 1 title, thrashing Ajaccio 5-0 as Lionel Messi returned from his club-issued suspension.

Messi was jeered by some home fans throughout his first appearance since an unauthorised trip to Saudi Arabia, but Mbappe took the focus away with a second-half brace.

Fabian Ruiz and Achraf Hakimi had earlier given PSG a commanding half-time lead, and Ajaccio's Mohamed Youssouf later put through his own net as the visitors' relegation to Ligue 2 was confirmed.

Both teams finished with 10 men as Hakimi and Thomas Mangani were dismissed for trading punches, but that was not enough to dampen PSG's spirits as they restored their six-point cushion to second-placed Lens.

Fabian's second goal in as many games broke the deadlock 22 minutes in, the Spaniard charging into the area before finishing well with the outside of his left boot.

Hakimi soon doubled PSG's lead, tapping in the rebound when Francois-Joseph Sollacaro parried Mbappe's shot, with the referee opting against penalising Mbappe for handball after an on-pitch VAR review. 

Mbappe got himself on the scoresheet inside 90 seconds of the second half, with his shot squirming under Sollacaro following a goalmouth scramble.

If Mbappe's first goal was fortuitous, his second – arriving seven minutes later – was sublime as he fired a fierce volley into the top-left corner following Cedric Avinel's failure to clear a long ball.

Mbappe was involved again as PSG scored a fifth with 17 minutes remaining. His rabona cross was cleared as far as Marquinhos, whose low effort struck Youssouf and found the bottom-right corner.

Tempers flared late on as Hakimi and Mangani saw red for throwing punches amid a scuffle, but that was as much fight as Ajaccio showed in a dispiriting outing.

Achraf Hakimi's red card in Paris Saint-Germain's loss to Lorient was "very stupid", according to coach Christophe Galtier, who wants his side to be more ambitious.

The Ligue 1 champions slipped to a 3-1 defeat after they lost the defender inside the first 20 minutes to a second yellow card offence.

The loss leaves PSG still with an eight-point cushion at the summit, although it would be slashed to five if rivals Marseille were to win against Auxerre later on Sunday.

Reflecting on Hakimi's red, which came after poor challenges on Romain Faivre and Darlin Yongwa, Galtier professed his frustration with both the player and his side's wider performance.

"[There is] no reason for Achraf to be tense and nervous," he said. "The second card is very stupid. [There was] no sign this week that he would be tense.

"It's a big disappointment, and we have to react quickly because we don't know how many points we're going to have. Our second half of the season [has been] very, very average,

"There needs to be a collective but also an individual awareness. Too many players are looking inward. We have to look ahead.

"The Troyes match is coming up. We've been first since the start of the championship, but we have to finish with victories. We have the ambition to do more."

Paris Saint-Germain's 10 men slipped up at the Ligue 1 summit once again after they suffered a 3-1 loss against a worthy Lorient on Sunday.

Achraf Hakimi's 20th-minute dismissal for a second yellow card followed Enzo Le Fee's surprise opener for the visitors at Parc des Princes.

Although Kylian Mbappe brought Christophe Galtier's side back on equal terms with a controversial finish, goals from Darlin Yongwa and Bamba Dieng handed the hosts another defeat.

It is their third in sixth league matches, although PSG retain a healthy gap to second-placed Marseille, eight points back with a single game in hand.

The signs of a potential PSG implosion were there inside the opening exchanges when Hakimi clattered through Romain Faivre with his studs.

It went from bad to worse for the home side when Le Fee smashed in from six yards following a cut-back, before Hakimi got his marching orders after he lunged in on Yongwa's foot.

Mbappe restored parity with a moment of bizarre opportunity after goalkeeper Yvon Mvogo mistakenly thought he had a free-kick and dropped the ball in his box, allowing the striker to pounce on an open net.

But Lorient would not be kept level for long, and when a defensive block inside the PSG box went awry, Yongwa was there to pounce and claim back the lead.

Despite the man disadvantage, PSG pushed hard for another equaliser after the break, with Sergio Ramos inching a header over before the hour mark.

Lorient picked them off on the counter, however. After Dieng saw a tap-in chalked off for offside late on, he belatedly got his goal after seizing on a long ball for a breakaway goal.

Paris Saint-Germain defender Achraf Hakimi has been charged with rape by French prosecutors, it was announced on Friday.

The Morocco international was accused by a 24-year-old woman who made a complaint to police on Sunday, February 26.

That has now been followed five days later by a formal indictment against the 24-year-old former Inter, Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid player, AFP reported.

After the initial complaint, PSG issued a statement to French media that was supportive of Hakimi, stating he had "firmly denied the accusations and trusts justice".

The club added in that statement: "PSG is an institution that promotes respect on and off the pitch."

L'Equipe quoted Hakimi's lawyer, Fanny Colin, as saying Hakimi "firmly denied the accusations made against him" when he spoke to police on Thursday.

She added in a statement to the newspaper: "In my opinion, it follows from the documents which are in the hands of the judicial police that Mr Hakimi has, in this case, been the subject of an attempted racketeering."

Hakimi was a major figure in Morocco's run to the World Cup semi-finals at the end of last year, and he is also a key player for French champions PSG.

The Parisians are top of Ligue 1 and face Nantes in that competition on Saturday.

After that, they begin preparation for a Champions League trip to play Bayern Munich next Wednesday, trailing 1-0 from the first leg.

Hakimi moved to PSG in July 2021 when he left Inter for a reported initial fee of €60million.

On Monday, he was named in the FIFA FIFPRO Men’s World 11 at FIFA's The Best awards ceremony in Paris.

He has not been detained in custody by police and trained with his club on Friday, although a recent hamstring injury ruled him out of the Nantes game.

PSG head coach Christophe Galtier said before his press conference on Friday that he would not answer any non-football questions about Hakimi.

Asked for an update on the player's injury, Galtier said he hoped Hakimi would be fit to face Bayern.

Christophe Galtier hailed another match-winning contribution from Lionel Messi after Paris Saint-Germain beat Toulouse 2-1 to go eight points clear at the top of Ligue.

PSG suffered an early blow at the Parc des Princes on Saturday when midfielder Renato Sanches left the field in tears after joining an injury list that includes the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Sergio Ramos.

Things took another turn when Branco van den Boomen's free-kick gave Toulouse a surprise lead 20 minutes in.

They responded like champions, Achraf Hakimi equalising with a sublime left-foot finish from 20 yards out after cutting in from the right seven minutes before the break.

Hakimi then provided an assist for the mercurial Messi, who produced a clinical first-time finish from outside the penalty area increase PSG's lead over Marseille - who face Nice on Sunday.

Messi is up to 10 goals for the season for a 16th time in one of the top five European leagues, this being the first campaign he has hit double figures for the Parisian giants.

PSG head coach Galtier was pleased with the way his side recovered from losing midfielder Sanches and falling behind.

He said: "We had a tough start to the match with Renato's injury early on. I decided to bring on El Chadaille [Bitshiabu] very quickly, he's been showing for many weeks that he's Ligue 1 level.

"We knew Toulouse's quality from set-pieces. They are one of the most dangerous teams in Ligue 1 from set-pieces. But overall we controlled the game. We had to get back on level terms and take risks against a very compact defence.

"In that sense, Achraf, as he did against Montpellier even though the goal was ruled out, this time scored with his left foot.

"Then the second half was much better for us going forward even though we needed to be careful of the balance of the team. Marqui [Marquinhos] and Chad, who I think won the ball most today, were great centre-backs today, one young and one with experience were able to stop the Toulouse counter-attacks.

"We were able, thanks to Leo's quality and his determination, to take the team to victory and win in a game that seemed like we should have won."

Lionel Messi and Achraf Hakimi were on target as Paris Saint-Germain came from behind to beat Toulouse 2-1 and go eight points clear at the top of Ligue 1.

Branco van den Boomen's free-kick gave Toulouse a surprise lead at the Parc des Princes on Saturday, but the champions fought back without injured duo Kylian Mbappe and Neymar.

Hakimi equalised with a sublime first-half strike and he was credited with the assist for a brilliantly taken second goal from Messi after the break.

PSG were good value for a victory that increased their advantage over Marseille at the summit and they will take some stopping in their quest to retain the title.

PSG suffered an early blow when Renato Sanches was seemingly in tears as he departed with an injury and they were rocked again when Van den Boomen sent a free-kick to the left of the wall and into the far corner 20 minutes in.

Marquinhos nodded Messi's whipped corner against the post and PSG were relieved to see the offside flag go up after Zakaria Aboukhlal thought he had headed Toulouse into a two-goal lead.

Hakimi produced the moment of quality the leaders had been lacking to level seven minutes before the break, cutting in from the right and unleashing a venomous left-foot drive that found the back of the net from 20 yards out.

The marauding Hakimi was involved in PSG's second goal just before the hour-mark, embarking on a run that that resulted in Messi firing a clinical left-foot finish beyond Maxime Dupe from outside the box.

PSG did not see the game out in convincing fashion and Mikkel Desler spurned a great chance to make it 2-2, before Messi rattled the post in a frantic finale.

 

Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe may have faced off against one another in the World Cup final in Qatar, but they line up in the same XI in FIFA 23's Team of the Year.

While Mbappe scored a hat-trick in the tournament's showpiece match, it was Messi's Argentina who lifted the World Cup for a third time with a penalty shoot-out victory following a 3-3 draw after extra-time.

The Paris Saint-Germain team-mates have both made FIFA 23's Team of the Year, though, with the selections made from over 10 million votes from fans.

Despite Argentina's World Cup win, Messi is the only player from Lionel Scaloni's team to be included, with Ballon d'Or winner Karim Benzema completing the front three after scoring 44 goals in 46 matches in the 2021-22 season to help Real Madrid to a LaLiga title and Champions League win.

Kevin De Bruyne finished third in the Ballon d'Or rankings and is part of the midfield, alongside the evergreen Madrid star Luka Modric and Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham, with the latter playing a key role for England at the World Cup at the age of just 19.

The Madrid theme running through the line-up continues at the back, with Thibaut Courtois between in goal and Eder Militao at the heart of the defence.

Virgil van Dijk joins Militao, while Theo Hernandez and Achraf Hakimi, who enjoyed excellent World Cups with France and Morocco respectively, fill the full-back roles.

Christophe Galtier insists there is no risk involved in throwing his World Cup stars straight back into Ligue 1 action.

The likes of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Achraf Hakimi are poised to face Strasbourg on Wednesday as the French top flight cranks into gear once more.

A six-week break for domestic duty has seen PSG's star names experience the roller coaster emotions and intense scrutiny of national team duty at the highest level.

Hakimi helped Morocco make history by becoming Africa's first semi-finalists, while Neymar had an injury-plagued campaign that ended with Brazil's defeat on penalties to Croatia in the quarter-finals.

Mbappe then experienced the cruellest of fates when he became just the second man to hit a hat-trick in a World Cup final, only to finish as a runner-up after France's spot-kicks loss to Argentina.

Ten days will have passed since that loss at Lusail Stadium when Mbappe steps out to face lowly domestic rivals, and Galtier said: "I don't think there is a risk.

"They wanted to get to play in these very important league games. Of course, we will need to manage things in the coming weeks to see how Achraf Hakimi and Kylian Mbappe cope.

"We are thinking about that and we will need to find the fight time for them to rest."

That rest is likely to come sooner rather than later, given PSG have Champions League commitments from February, but for now Galtier believes his players are reliable judges of their readiness to play.

 

Head coach Galtier saw PSG pull five points clear of second-placed Lens before the World Cup, and with a trip to Stade Bollaert-Delelis coming up on Sunday, the Strasbourg game might be seen by outsiders as a soft landing before the first big test arrives.

Galtier sees it as nothing of the sort, warning the 19th-placed visitors are "playing for their lives" and suggesting PSG's previous form counts for nothing.

Strasbourg have won just one of 15 league games to date this season, while unbeaten PSG have 41 points from the same number of matches.

Strasbourg also have the highest expected goals against total in Ligue 1 this season (28.52 xGA), signalling their opponents have been able to create a high number of good goalscoring chances, while PSG have the lowest (15.06 xGA) and have shipped just nine goals.

 

PSG are unbeaten in 31 home games against Strasbourg in Ligue 1 (W24 D7), too, the longest such streak against a specific opponent by a Ligue 1 team without ever losing.

On paper, therefore, there is little for Strasbourg to cling to. PSG have not lost at home in their past 36 home games spanning all competitions (W30 D6), since losing to Manchester City in the Champions League in April of last year.

Perhaps the only saving grace for the team from Alsace is they will not have to face World Cup winner Lionel Messi, who has been granted an extended break by PSG.

Galtier knows anything less than three points would be a disappointment, which is why he is preparing the team with the utmost seriousness and backing them to respond.

"If you just focus on the table that would be a big mistake," Galtier said.

"We are starting from scratch. That is what I said to my players. We had a very good start to the season and we know why that was. The players a had a serious approach. They were demanding. They showed determination and humility.

"They want to achieve something together and all of us need to be in the same mindset tomorrow come kick-off."

Achraf Hakimi has apologised to Gianni Infantino following his confrontation with the FIFA president.

The Morocco defender reportedly questioned Infantino on the level of officiating at the World Cup following the Atlas Lions' defeat by Croatia in the third-place play-off.

Walid Regragui's side were denied a potential penalty against the 2018 runners-up when Youssef En-Nesyri's header hit Bruno Petkovic, while Ibrahima Konate's challenge on Sofiane Boufal also went unpunished in the semi-final loss to France.

But Hakimi, who also confronted referee Abdulrahman Al-Jassim, has since expressed remorse over the incident, with the Paris Saint-Germain full-back acknowledging his frustration had boiled over.

"Nothing happened," he told reporters. "I was angry after the end of the match. I went to talk to him, and I apologised for the words I said to him. He is my friend and I respect him a lot, so nothing happened."

Morocco became the first African nation to reach the World Cup semi-finals, having topped Group F ahead of Belgium of Croatia, before overcoming Spain and Portugal in the last 16 and quarter-finals respectively.

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