Lionel Messi jeered on return as PSG hammer Ajaccio to take step closer to title

Argentine made his first appearance since serving a suspension for taking an unauthorised trip to Saudi Arabia

Lionel Messi in action for PSG during the Ligue 1 match against Ajaccio at the Parc des Princes. EPA
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Lionel Messi was jeered by a section of Paris Saint-Germain fans when he made his return to the team on Saturday before the French giants took a step closer to the Ligue 1 title with a 5-0 thrashing of Ajaccio.

Messi, 35, made his first start for PSG since serving a club-imposed two-week suspension for taking an unauthorised trip to Saudi Arabia.

But while the Argentine received a mixed reception, there was plenty for PSG supporters to be pleased about as Fabian Ruiz opened the scoring on 22 minutes at the Parc des Princes and Achraf Hakimi added a second goal before Kylian Mbappe struck twice shortly after half-time.

Mohamed Youssouf compounded a miserable night for Ajaccio with an own goal for PSG's fifth, while Hakimi and Ajaccio midfielder Thomas Mangani were sent off after a late bust-up.

PSG need four points from their final three games – against Auxerre, Strasbourg and Clermont – to secure the Ligue 1 title after restoring their six-point lead over second-placed Lens.

"The players were very determined to put in a proper display. They want to be champions and they realise that Lens aren't giving up and a misstep could raise the pressure," said PSG coach Christophe Galtier.

Messi's name elicited a combination of whistles and applause when it was read out before kick-off. The Argentine again drew jeers with his early touches in what was likely his penultimate appearance in Paris.

The World Cup-winning forward is expected to leave the club when his contract expires at the end of the season, with a potential move to Saudi Arabian club Al Hilal reported to be one of his options.

"So there are whistles but very quickly a large part of the stadium made sure to drown them out to support Leo," said Galtier.

"He stayed focused with the desire to liven up the game and create chances. He's used to it because he's been in difficult situations in his career."

Three defeats in their past four home games for PSG had allowed Lens to stay in an unlikely title race, but Ajaccio offered little resistance as their relegation to Ligue 2 was confirmed.

Danilo's threaded pass was flicked into the path of Ruiz and the Spain midfielder took a couple of smart touches before finishing clinically for his second goal in as many games.

Hakimi then swept in the rebound after Mbappe's effort was parried by Francois-Joseph Sollacaro, with the goal allowed to stand despite the France striker using his arm to control in the build-up.

Mbappe hit the 25-goal mark for the fourth time early in the second half, slotting beyond Sollacaro after a scramble in the box to take over again as the league's top scorer this term.

He then produced a brilliant first-time volley to lash in PSG's fourth minutes later after a long ball forward from Sergio Ramos glanced off the head of a backtracking defender.

An unfortunate Youssouf diverted a shot from Marquinhos into his own net on 73 minutes and both teams finished with 10 players after a challenge on Messi triggered a needless scuffle.

Hakimi, who was sent off against Lorient two weeks ago, received his second red card in as many outings after getting into an altercation with Mangani that also led to his dismissal.

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Updated: May 14, 2023, 5:03 AM