Angel Di Maria scored a sumptuous free-kick and Kylian Mbappe was also on target as Paris Saint-Germain continued their relentless march towards another French title by hammering Montpellier 5-1 on Wednesday.
Layvin Kurzawa and Christopher Nkunku also scored for PSG at the Parc des Princes, while Montpellier captain Vitorino Hilton netted an own goal.
Florent Mollet had equalised at one point in the first half for the visitors before they crumbled in a rearranged fixture that had initially been postponed in early December due to disruption caused by “yellow vest” anti-government protests in France.
As they warm up for the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Manchester United on March 6, PSG are now a huge 15 points clear of second-placed Lille, and still have a game in hand as they race to a sixth Ligue 1 title in seven seasons.
Coach Thomas Tuchel was without a host of players for this game, with the injured Neymar and Edinson Cavani joined on the sidelines by skipper Thiago Silva, who was suspended.
French international left-back Kurzawa was making his first start in the league in an injury-hit season and he opened the scoring in the 13th minute with a header from a Daniel Alves cross.
However, Montpellier recovered well from that and claimed a deserved leveller just after the half-hour mark from a Mollet free-kick. Gianluigi Buffon thought he had kept it out, but goal-line technology confirmed the ball had just crossed the line.
Nevertheless, Di Maria restored PSG’s lead in first-half stoppage time with a stunning free-kick from 30 yards that went in off the underside of the bar for his sixth league goal of the season.
PSG then ran away with the game in the closing stages, although only after both Mbappe and substitute Eric-Maxim Choupo Moting had efforts disallowed for offside.
Nkunku, the 21-year-old making a rare start, headed home in the 73rd minute after the ball fell to him following a corner, and Mbappe then took centre stage.
The young World Cup winner turned in a Kurzawa centre in the 78th minute, but the goal was attributed to Montpellier’s 41-year-old defender Hilton.
From the restart, PSG won possession back and Mbappe beat Montpellier goalkeeper Benjamin Lecomte with the aid of a huge deflection off Hilton.
This time the goal was given to Mbappe, who now has 20 goals in 19 league appearances this season, and 25 in all competitions.
Montpellier remain sixth, while PSG now host Nimes on Saturday before a French Cup quarter-final against Dijon and then a visit to Caen, as their busy schedule continues before the visit of United.
The other game in France on Wednesday saw bottom side Guingamp draw 0-0 at Bordeaux.
While Neymar’s untimely injury is a huge blow to Paris Saint-Germain, it does represent a golden opportunity for Angel di Maria and other members of their expensively assembled squad.
Not only will Neymar miss PSG’s Champions League last 16, second leg against Real Madrid next week, but the world’s most expensive player might not feature for his club again this season, with the doctor who will operate on his fractured foot in Brazil saying he could be out for three months.
That means it is without their 222 million-euro ($264m) star recruit — who arrived in Brazil on Thursday for surgery on Saturday — that PSG must try to overturn a 3-1 first-leg deficit against Madrid, as well as secure a clean sweep of the domestic honours.
However, the man most likely to directly benefit is Di Maria, himself feted as the player to turn PSG into genuine Champions League contenders when signed from Manchester United for 63 million euros in 2015.
The Argentine may not be a first pick for coach Unai Emery anymore, but he has still probably been their best player in 2018, profiting from whenever Neymar, Kylian Mbappe or Edinson Cavani have been absent.
A double in Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Marseille in the French Cup quarter-finals means Di Maria has now scored 12 times in 2018 in 13 starts.
“He had been lacking a little bit of confidence, but he is a player who can change a match at any moment,” said Marco Verratti of the former Real Madrid winger.
“He is not someone who we are just discovering. He has done a lot of great things in his career.”
PSG go to struggling Troyes this weekend, and with a 14-point lead over Monaco at the top of Ligue 1, Emery must be tempted to wrap his players in cotton wool before the Real game.
“We will miss Neymar, but the team is preparing to do without him,” said Emery, who saw Mbappe come off at half-time against Marseille.
“He took a kick on the ankle and asked not to play the second half. But I don’t think it’s too serious.”
Others who could have an important role in upcoming games are Javier Pastore and Julian Draxler, underused of late but who cost a combined 80 million euros.
Meanwhile, the return of Thiago Motta provides a boost to Emery, with the veteran Italian midfielder proving his fitness in an impressive 74 minutes on the field against Marseille in midweek.
He missed the first leg against Real altogether, but even at 35 he remains the man who makes PSG tick.
Player to watch: Rony Lopes While the brilliant Bernardo Silva left champions Monaco for Manchester City last year, his compatriot Rony Lopes has taken the opposite route.
Now 22, the Portuguese attacking midfielder was at City before being sold to Monaco in 2015. After spending last season on loan at Lille, he returned to the principality as a replacement for Silva, and is enjoying a fine campaign.
Often troubled by injury in the past, Lopes has scored five times in Monaco’s last six league games, including a brace in last week’s 3-3 draw at Toulouse. Leonardo Jardim’s side are unbeaten in 12 league outings and sit second in the table.
“I am playing close to my best at the moment, but I know that I can get better still,” Lopes said ahead of Friday’s clash with Bordeaux.
His coach added: “This year he is progressing, he has more confidence and he is almost never injured, so I am pleased for him.”
Fixtures (all GMT)
Nice v Lille (1800), Monaco v Bordeaux (1945)
Troyes v Paris Saint-Germain (1600), Amiens v Rennes, Angers v Guingamp, Metz v Toulouse, Saint-Etienne v Dijon (all 1900)
Caen v Strasbourg (1400), Montpellier v Lyon (1600), Marseille v Nantes (2000)
Former Real Madrid player Angel Di Maria has reached an agreement with Spanish prosecutors over a tax evasion charge related to his image rights, a Madrid-based court said on Wednesday.
Di Maria, who now plays for France’s Paris St Germain, will plead guilty to two charges of tax fraud, carrying an eight-month prison sentence for each, and pay a €2 million ($2.23 million) settlement, the court said.
Under Spanish law, a first-time offender is not required to serve time in jail for a sentence below two years.
The Argentine midfielder is accused of failing to pay some 1.3 million euros to the Spanish tax authorities in 2012-2013 by giving up his image rights to companies based in tax havens, such as Panama.
It was not immediately possible to reach Di Maria’s representatives for a comment.
The deal comes amid a lengthening list of cases of tax evasion by high-profile players such as Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, whose charges date back to when he coached Real Madrid.
Mourinho’s agents said he had already dealt with questions raised by tax authorities in 2015, settling issues with his 2011 and 2012 filings and reaching a settlement regarding 2013.
French anti-corruption police searched the homes of Paris Saint-Germain footballers Angel Di Maria and Javier Pastore as well as the club’s offices on Tuesday as part of an investigation into alleged financial offences, a source close to the probe said.
The police operations were conducted as part of an investigation opened last December by the national financial prosecutors’ office into alleged laundering of money acquired by fraud, the source said.
According to the Mediapart internet site, the searches of the Argentinians’ homes and PSG offices in Paris and Boulogne-Billancourt stemmed from media reports last December of large-scale tax evasion by football stars.
That same month, a group of 12 European news outlets began publishing the results of months of investigations into millions of financial documents obtained by the German magazine Der Spiegel and dubbed the “Football Leaks”.
English football giants, Arsenal FC, have defeated old rivals, Manchester United to qualify for the semi finals of the English FA Cup.
This is courtesy of a 2-1 victory in the quarter final match decided at Old Trafford on Monday night.
Nacho Monreal scored his first goal of the season when he clinically finished a terrific move to put the Gunners in the lead but Wayne Rooney quickly equalized three minutes later during a captivating first 45 minutes.
The second half saw the defending champions regaining their lead in the 61st minute after a catastrophic back-pass error, which Danny Welbeck took advantage of to score in his first return to the stadium that he called home until last summer’s deadline day.
Jones failed to control a high ball, so Valencia rolled a pass back to De Gea. However, he didn’t get enough on it and the former Red Devil nipped in, poking it beyond the onrushing keeper before slotting into the vacant net.
The pressure to get another equalizer, however, got the best of United’s Di Maria, leading to a second yellow and a sending off in the 77th minute.
After being booked for simulation, Di Maria clasped at the referee’s shirt in an attempt to get his attention so he can complain about the booking, but for that infraction the official showed him his second yellow to make United’s task even harder.
Arsenal held on to emerge triumphant and secure their much desired revenge over United, having won at Old Trafford for the first time in 11 attempts.