PARIS (AP) — An unplayable Neymar notched a goal and three assists to lead defending champion Paris Saint-Germain to a 5-0 win at Clermont in the French league on Saturday.
Lionel Messi also made a big contribution with two goals and an assist.
Neymar troubled Clermont with his movement and skills. In the seventh minute, he pounced on a low cross from Achraf Hakimi to have a first-time effort deflected out by Alidu Seidu.
Two minutes later, Pablo Sarabia squared the ball back for Messi, who flicked it toward Neymar. The Brazil forward controlled the ball before burying it into the bottom corner.
PSG capitalized on a fast break in the 26th when Neymar found Achraf Hakimi, who fired into the top corner.
Neymar set up the third goal with a pinpoint free kick for Marquinhos, who headed home in the 39th.
On the stroke of halftime, Neymar fed Messi, whose shot was saved by goalkeeper Mory Diaw.
PSG slowed down a bit in the second half against a Clermont side which narrowly avoided relegation last season.
Messi still made it 4-0 in the 80th. He played a one-two with Neymar before netting with a low strike.
The Argentina superstar sealed the win in the 86th by chesting down a ball over the top from Leandro Paredes to score with an overhead kick.
“What I have liked is the team's desire to win the ball back very quickly, to play with a lot of intensity,” PSG coach Christophe Galtier said. ”Leo reacts reacts very quickly when possession is lost, and Ney has also made efforts in his defensive positioning to help the team stay very compact and win the ball.”
Chasing a record 11th league title, PSG missed Kylian Mbappe, who is nursing a groin problem, and Renato Sanches, who was signed on Thursday and lacked match fitness.
PSG left out of its matchday squad some high-profile players it reportedly wants to move out: Mauro Icardi, Julian Draxler, Ander Herrera, Idrissa Gueye, Rafinha, Thilo Kehrer and Layvin Kurzawa.
Meanwhile, Krepin Diatta and Sofiane Diop scored for a weakened Monaco to prevail at Strasbourg 2-1.
In a clash between contenders for European spots, Diatta opened the scoring with a powerful volley from the edge of the box in the 43rd. The Senegal winger could have added another goal in the 48th but Strasbourg goalkeeper Matz Sels saved his chip.
Diop, a France Under-21 international, doubled the lead by converting a rebound in the 53rd after Sels palmed away a deflected cross from Gelson Martins.
Strasbourg forward Habib Diallo pulled one back in the 65th by heading in a cross from Thomas Delaine.
Monaco and Strasbourg finished third and sixth, respectively, last season.
Sels limited the damage by denying Martins in the 35th, diverting onto the post a close-range effort from Jean Lucas in the 61st, and saving a downward header from substitute Maghnes Akliouche in the 85th.
Monaco goalkeeper Alexander Nubel preserved the win in injury time by stopping a point-blank shot from Adrien Thomasson.
‘We had chances to lead 3-0 and 4-0,” Monaco coach Philippe Clement said. "It’s a matter of experience. It’s normal with young players, they must learn lessons, they must gain experience in such situations.”
Monaco missed the suspended Kevin Volland and Aleksandr Golovin, the injured Takumi Minamino, Benoit Badiashile and Myron Boadu, and an ill Caio Henrique.
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The Associated Press