PARIS (Reuters) -Lionel Messi scored his first Ligue 1 goal as Paris St Germain opened a 12-point lead at the top despite playing almost half an hour with 10 men in a 3-1 home win against Nantes on Saturday.
Messi scored with a curled left-footer from outside the box three minutes from time, adding to Dennis Appiah’s own goal after Randal Kolo Muani cancelled out Kylian Mbappe’s first-half opener.
The result left PSG with 37 points from 14 games ahead of a Champions League trip to Manchester City on Wednesday, while Nantes are 11th on 18 points.
Stade Rennais moved into provisional second spot on 25 points after goals by Martin Terrier and Lovro Majer gave them a 2-0 home win over 10-man Montpellier.
Messi has scored three goals in the Champions League since joining the capital club from Barcelona during the close season but the Argentina forward had not found the back of the net in his five previous appearances in Ligue 1.
“I’m happy with this first goal, I really wanted it. I had several chances before in this match and in the previous matches,” said Messi.
“I am very happy with this first goal in the league, I had already scored in the Champions League. I had chances but I didn’t convert them. I am very happy.”
PSG started brilliantly as Mbappe deflected Leandro Paredes’ long-range strike to put the hosts ahead after two minutes.
The attacking trio coordinated nicely, with Mbappe shifting to the right and leaving more space on the inside for Messi, who came close in the 17th minute after being set up by Neymar.
Mbappe tormented the Nantes defence with his technique and brutal accelerations as he looked to find Messi.
Nantes goalkeeper Alban Lafont kept his team afloat with several saves as the visitors struggled to get into PSG’s half in a one-sided opening half.
Nantes applied some pressure after the break but their attempts were too weak for Navas, who made his first proper save in the 61st minute to block Ludovic Blas’ strike.
But the keeper was sent off four minutes later for charging into Blas outside his area. With Gianluigi Donnarumma out with a bout of gastro-enteritis, Sergio Rico stepped in between the posts and Neymar was sent back to the bench.
Rico made a brilliant save in a packed goalmouth and parried Kolo Muani’s header in the 76th minute but the striker followed up and netted with a back heel to put the visitors level.
However, Appiah deflected a Messi cross into his own net in the 81st before the Argentine sent the Parc des Princes crowd into raptures with his trademark curled strike.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Ken Ferris)