PARIS (AP) Neymar showed there was no hangover from his lavish birthday party by scoring the winner as leader Paris Saint-Germain won at Toulouse 1-0 in the French league on Saturday.
Neymar settled a scrappy match with a typical moment of skill midway through the second half. He drifted into the left side of the penalty area and cut past two players before his deflected shot somewhat fortuitously wrong-footed goalkeeper Alban Lafont.
The win moved PSG 13 points clear of second-place Marseille, which drew at Saint-Etienne 2-2 on Friday.
But this was a largely uninspired PSG performance aside from Neymar. He has 19 goals in 18 league games since joining from Barcelona for a world record 222 million euros ($260 million).
Neymar had plenty of spare cash to throw a mega-party last Sunday to celebrate turning 26. He privatized a Parisian club and invited 300 guests – including his teammates, his coach, his club president – and 50 keen partygoers from Brazil.
As a result, coach Unai Emery gave Neymar a rest on a chilly Tuesday when PSG played at Sochaux; and it proved a judicious move as the silky Neymar looked in fine form. He almost added a second goal late on with a brilliant curling shot from 25 meters which bounced off the crossbar.
PSG needs Neymar like this. The club has a massive game at Real Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday, in the first leg of the last 16. PSG has a big point to prove after being humiliated 6-1 by Barcelona in the second leg at the same stage last year – with Neymar PSG’s chief tormentor that night.
“We’re ready. It will be a very important game for our season and we don’t have the right not to be ready,” PSG midfielder Marco Verratti said. “We’re content because things are going well in the league. ”
Later Saturday, Monaco looked to move above Marseille and into second place with a win at Angers. But Monaco is without injured top scorer Radamel Falcao.