Kylian Mbappe scored a hat trick and Gianluigi Donnarumma made six decisive saves to send Paris Saint-Germain to the top of the French league with a 3-0 win at Reims on Saturday.
Four days after a Champions League loss to AC Milan, it was a hard-fought win for PSG, which was second best for long spells in the Champagne city but was opportunistic and clinical in converting its chances.
Reims, one of the most attack-oriented teams in Ligue 1, had many chances to score but Donnarumma was unbeatable.
The fifth straight league win moved PSG one point above Nice, with Reims in fourth place, seven points off the pace.
The visitors did not take long to break the deadlock when Ousmane Dembele accelerated down the right flank and delivered a superb cross to the far post. Mbappe volleyed the ball from inside the box to fire a right-footed shot past Reims goalkeeper Yehvann Diouf into the opposite corner after just two minutes.
That was Mbappe’s 11th goal in the French league this season and Dembele’s fourth assist. Mbappe would later bring his season’s tally to 13, having played in just 11 matches.
But it was not enough to fully satisfy PSG coach Luis Enrique. Asked about Mbappe’s performance, Enrique said “he can do even better.”
“I always ask more of him, as I do of all players,” Enrique was quoted as saying after the game. “He’s a world-class player, but he’s got room for improvement too … I tell him not to rest on his laurels.”
Reims reacted immediately after conceding the opening goal and thought it leveled the scoring as Junya Ito beat Donnarumma with a long-range shot in the seventh minute. The goal was disallowed for offside.
PSG dominated the possession, but Reims was the better team for the remainder of the first half. Ito was a constant threat on the right side and forced two good saves from Donnarumma before Azor Matusiwa exploited a poor pass from the PSG keeper to steal the ball and then tried his luck, only to miss the target.
Donnarumma was decisive again to keep out an effort from Amir Richardson with a reflex save after PSG defenders failed to clear the ball from a corner in the 39th minute.
Reims kept pressing for an equalizer in the second half and Donnarumma made another brilliant stop to deny a powerful header from defender Emmanuel Agbadou.
“He’s an impressive player, he’s a marvel of a ‘keeper,” Enrique said about Donnarumma.
Against the run of play, Mbappe doubled his team’s lead at the conclusion of a move started by Dembele, who picked up Spain’s Carlos Soler who set up an easy finish for Mbappe.
Donnarumma produced two more excellent saves in the 72nd and 76th minutes and Nice was punished on the break one last time when Mbappe was picked out in the box by Bradley Barcola and took his time to conclude the move with his right foot.
Mbappe came close to adding a fourth goal with a powerful strike from the edge of the box that crashed onto the bar.
PSG has now scored at least three goals in each of its last five league games.
Previous leader Nice, the only team still unbeaten this season, was held to a 0-0 draw at midtable Montpellier on Friday.
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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