Nice (France): Angel Di Maria grabbed two goals while Kylian Mbappe struck on his return from injury as Paris Saint-Germain won 4-1 at Nice to surge five points clear at the top of Ligue 1.
PSG lost Neymar and the influential Idrissa Gueye to injury over the international break while Mbappe and Edinson Cavani were only fit enough to make the bench for the trip to the Cote d’Azur.
“At the start of a run of six very intensive matches, it’s always good to start with a win,” said PSG coach Thomas Tuchel. “We had a good first half, I was happy. We had chances to control the match but at the start of the second half, we forgot to close it out.”
A spectacular triple save by Walter Benitez kept out Presnel Kimpembe and Abdou Diallo in the opening minutes at the Allianz Riviera but PSG soon made the breakthrough.
Di Maria raced on to a first-time pass from fellow Argentine Mauro Icardi before calmly guiding beyond Benitez in the Nice goal on 15 minutes.
Only Mbappe has been involved in more goals in France this year than Di Maria, who duly doubled his tally six minutes later with a sublime lob from an unfavourable angle.
Marquinhos replaced PSG captain Thiago Silva at half-time and headed against the crossbar at a corner, but a mistake from the Brazilian presented Nice a lifeline on 67 minutes.
An ill-advised attempt at chesting down a cross allowed Kasper Dolberg to tee up Ignatius Ganago to blast home via the underside of the bar.
Any chance Patrick Vieira’s side had of salvaging a result effectively evaporated though with the dismissal of Wylan Cyprien and Christophe Herelle in a matter of minutes.
Cyprien was shown a second yellow card for dissent with Herelle sent off following a VAR review for a petulant slap on Leandro Paredes.
Tuchel threw on Mbappe, restricted to just two substitute appearances since August, for the final eight minutes and PSG made the most of their two-man advantage.
Mbappe drove low under Benitez to claim his first goal since August 11 and then laid on an assist for Icardi to tap home in stoppage time.
Nantes could trim PSG’s lead back to two points on Saturday when they head to bottom side Metz, while Rudi Garcia begins his reign as Lyon manager against lowly Dijon.
Garcia, 55, must win over underwhelmed fans and turn around a season that is already threatening to go off the rails after taking charge of Lyon on Monday.
He has been tasked with ending a miserable run that has left them languishing in 14th place after nine games, already seven points away from the Champions League places for which they are expected to challenge.