Ángel di María

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Mbappé enjoys turning 21 with 2 goals as PSG routs Amiens

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PARIS — Kylian Mbappe celebrated turning 21 with a silvery-looking haircut and two more clinical finishes as league leader Paris Saint-Germain beat struggling Amiens 4-1 on Saturday.

It was a familiar sight as the lightning-fast France star with his new dyed hair – after his birthday on Friday – latched onto a long pass from Neymar and adroitly clipped the ball over the advancing goalkeeper.

Mbappe has been involved in 15 goals in his last 12 league games – 11 goals and four assists – and his partnership with Brazil star Neymar continues to flourish.

Neymar danced in front of the home fans after tapping home from close range early into the second half. Mauro Icardi’s effort was blocked and the loose ball rolled kindly across to Neymar.

Angel Di Maria then set up Mbappe with a clever reverse pass down the right, with Mbappe drilling a low shot into the corner in the 65th.

However rampant in attack, PSG remains prone to lapses in concentration at the back and Colombian forward Steven Mendoza was left unmarked when he pulled a goal back five minutes later.

Icardi has been in prolific form since joining on a season’s loan from Inter Milan and notched his ninth league goal in only 11 games, showing his usual dexterity when sliding to the back post to volley in a cross from the left with minutes remaining.

The win kept PSG seven points clear of second-place Marseille heading into the mid-season winter break. PSG has played one game less and has a vastly superior goal difference.

Marseille enjoyed a comfortable 3-1 home win against 19th-place Nimes for a sixth win in seven games. Midfield schemer Dimitri Payet was involved in all the goals – and in another disallowed goal – after a tight first half.

Nimes players were exasperated not to get a penalty on the stroke of halftime, following a video review after center half Duje Caleta-Car appeared to impede Sofiane Alakouch.

Alakouch inadvertently sent the ball into his own net in the 47th after sliding to stop a cross from the right from reaching Payet.

Marseille then had a goal ruled out by VAR after Payet’s deflected shot from the edge of the penalty area clipped striker Dario Benedetto, who was in an offside position.

Benedetto’s next effort stood as he volleyed into the roof of the net from close range in the 66th, after midfielder Morgan Sanson’s saved shot from Payet’s pass bounced up invitingly to him.

Payet got an ovation when he was substituted soon after his well-struck goal in the 82nd. Payet was one of France’s best players at the European Championship in 2016, but then lost his place.

With Euro 2020 looming, he is pushing for a return to coach Didier Deschamps’ squad and has four goals and three assists in six games.

The French league resumes on Jan. 10.

OTHER MATCHES

Striker M’Baye Niang’s late goal gave Rennes a 1-0 home win against Bordeaux and moved it two points above Lille into third place.

Lille was routed 5-1 away to Monaco, despite Nigeria striker Victor Osimhen’s 10th league goal of the season giving Lille a 14th-minute lead.

The prolific Wissam Ben Yedder grabbed two second-half goals to take his league-leading tally to 13 – two more than Mbappe.

Nantes is two points behind Lille in fifth spot after losing 2-1 at home to Angers.

Midfielder Ludovic Blas celebrated his goal after a shot from outside the penalty area in the 18th. Goalkeeper Ludovic Butelle clumsily spilled what was otherwise a comfortable shot to stop.

Midfielder Antonin Bobichon leveled for Angers in the 51st and Algerian striker Farid El Melali pounced late on.

Lyon was missing top scorer Memphis Depay and attacking midfielder Jeff Reine-Adelaide to serious knee injuries sustained last weekend, but still took an early lead at sixth-place Reims through midfielder Lucas Tousart.

After midfielder Mathieu Cafaro leveled from the penalty spot for Reims in the 44th, striker Moussa Dembele missed a late penalty for Lyon in a 1-1 draw.

Center forward Gaetan Laborde netted twice as ninth-place Montpellier easily beat Brest 4-0.

Headers from Malang Sarr and Hicham Boudaoui put 10th-place Nice 2-0 up inside 20 minutes at home to last-place Toulouse, and a brilliant curling shot by midfielder Pierre Lees-Melou. also in the first half, made it 3-0.

Saint-Etienne slumped to a fifth defeat in the last seven games overall, losing 2-1 at 11th-place Strasbourg.

Dijon midfielder Romain Amalfitano’s first league goal since January 2016 was worth the wait in a 2-2 home draw with Metz. As the ball dropped on the edge of the penalty area he struck a superb volley into the bottom corner to equalize moments after Senegal striker Habib Diallo’s 10th of the season gave Metz a 15th-minute lead.

Metz had a player sent off in the second half but earned a point thanks to Habib Maiga’s injury-time goal.

Mbappe returns, scores as PSG beats 9-man Nice 4-1

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NICE, France (AP) Angel Di Maria scored twice and Kylian Mbappe marked his return from injury with a goal as Paris Saint-Germain stretched its lead in the French league with a 4-1 win at nine-man Nice on Friday.

Di Maria got the visitors off to a flying start in the first half before Mbappe sealed the win in the 83rd minute after the home side had two players sent off. Mbappe also set up Mauro Icardi for PSG’s fourth goal in injury time.

[ MORE: Interview with Claudio Reyna ]

Mbappe, who recently missed a month with a thigh injury, hadn’t played since suffering a reaction to his original injury in Champions League win over Galatasaray on Oct. 1.

The win lifts PSG five points clear of Nantes ahead of the rest of the 10th round of matches.

Di Maria opened the scoring in the 15th minute after being sent through all alone from the halfway line by Icardi as Nice’s defenders all pushed up. The Argentine stayed cool with only goalkeeper Walter Benitez to beat and picked his spot inside the far corner.

Di Maria’s second goal six minutes later was even better as he lifted the ball over Benitez with his first touch from a difficult angle.

Marquinhos replaced Brazilian compatriot Thiago Silva for the second half and struck the crossbar with a header from a corner.

A Marquinhos mistake – made while attempting a backpass to Presnel Kimpembe – allowed Ignatius Ganago to pull one back for Nice in the 67th.

But the home side’s hope of an equalizer were hit in the 74th when Wylan Cyprien was sent off with a second yellow card after he criticized the referee for not awarding a foul against him.

Christophe Herelle followed Cyprien off minutes later with a straight red after the video referee picked up a slap he gave Leandro Paredes, who fell theatrically to the ground.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

UCL wrap: PSG runs over Real; Atalanta clobbered on debut

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Real Madrid, UEFA Champions League goals, and Angel Di Maria go together pretty well.

[ MORE: Man Utd extends Lindelof ]

The man who scored a decisive goal for Real in a UCL Final scored two as Paris Saint-Germain throttled the 10-time champions in France without Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani, and Neymar.

PSG 3-0 Real Madrid

If it’s possible for Zinedine Zidane to feel heat under his seat, it’s probably happening right about now.

Real Madrid was absolutely cooked by a clinical PSG missing its trident, with Di Maria scoring two goals in the win.

Juan Bernat was exceptional in the win, and set up two goals including Thomas Meunier’s late insurance tally.

Dinamo Zagreb 4-0 Atalanta

The Serie A visitors made their UEFA Champions League debut, and boy did it fall flat.

Down 1-0 early on a Marin Leovac opener, Atalanta surrendered a hat trick to Mislav Orsic in the loss. The 26-year-old midfielder is fresh off his first cap for Croatia. More seem on the horizon, yeah?

Considering their group includes Man City and Shakhtar Donetsk, La Dea won’t appreciate losing four goals in the differential column against a perceived bottom dweller for the group.

Elsewhere

Olympiacos 2-2 Tottenham — RECAP, Pochettino reaction
Shakhtar Donetsk 0-3 Man City — RECAP
Atletico Madrid 2-2 Juventus — RECAP
Club Brugge 0-0 Galatasaray
Bayer Leverkusen 1-2 Lokomotiv Moscow
Bayern Munich 3-0 Red Star Belgrade

Di Maria brace seals 3-1 win for PSG over Marseille

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Kylian Mbappe and Valere Germain bracketed the halftime whistle with last-minute/first-minute goals, but Angel Di Maria’s second-half brace proved the difference as Paris Saint-Germain topped Marseille 3-1 to restore its 20-point Ligue 1 lead and leave the visitors exposed in the Champions League race.

Marseille came into the match in good form, unbeaten in its last six matches with five wins in that span, but they were no match for Di Maria who had a hand in all three goals. Mbappe opened the scoring at Parc de Princes in first-half stoppage time with a clinical fastbreak, finishing off a feed from Di Maria that pushed the Frenchman to the left, but no matter as he calmly slotted the ball inside the far post to break the deadlock.

The visitors earned a lucky equalizer just 24 seconds after the break as Valere Germain picked up the goal, with both his strike and Lucas Ocampos’s assist were deflected before reaching its destination. From there, Di Maria took over for his first multi-goal game of the season.

His first came in the 55th minute via a mistake at the back from Hiroki Sakai who stepped to a ball and allowed Di Maria to get free down the right, and he produced a low finish from a very tight angle to put PSG in front.

From there, Marseille fell a man down as goalkeeper Steve Mandanda came nearly 40 yards out of his net to challenge Di Maria on a breakaway, and in his sliding challenge, the ball struck his outstretched hand, leaving the referee no choice but to send him off. Just three minutes later, Di Maria put the game away with an unbelievable free-kick from at least 25 yards that found the top-right corner.

The performance moves Di Maria to nine goals and 10 assists for the season, leaving him one goal away from a season double-double that only Eden Hazard and Lionel Messi have achieved among the top five European leagues.

Di Maria: My only problem at Manchester United was Van Gaal

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First of all today is Angel Di Maria’s 31st birthday. Happy birthday, fella.

The Argentine is probably feeling pretty good after his latest trip around the Sun, especially given its most recent moment was Paris Saint-Germain’s 2-0 defeat of former club Manchester United in the first leg of the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16.

[ MORE: Man Utd paid a lot to fire Mourinho ]

Di Maria was in the headlines after the game because an Old Trafford attendee tossed a bottle at him, part of what’s prompted a UEFA investigation into both sets of fans.

Di Maria, however, insists he has no problems with United or its fans, saying his poor memories of Old Trafford rest only with manager Louis Van Gaal.

“I’ve said it in the past and I reiterate it, I never spoke badly of the people here and of this club,” Di Maria said. “These are things that happen and people took it badly. I only had problems with the coach here.”

The numbers say that Di Maria wasn’t all that bad at Old Trafford; He just didn’t quite live up to his standards (He also had fewer matches than any time in his career because United was neither in the Champions nor Europa League.

Here are Di Maria’s matches, goals, and assists since he turned 21 and broke out with Benfica. While the numbers don’t tell the whole story of any seasons, they are a guiding light and also show why he’s considered a star everywhere outside of England.

There’s little doubt that Manchester United and the Premier League are a significant challenge compared to the Portuguese and French leagues, so perhaps his numbers should speak for themselves anyway.

To boot:

Benfica
2009-10 — 45 matches, 10 goals, 19 assists
Real Madrid
2010-11 — 53 matches, 9 goals, 26 assists
2011-12 — 32 matches, 7 goals, 17 assists
2012-13 — 52 matches, 9 goals, 17 assists
2013-14 — 52 matches, 11 goals, 25 assists
Manchester United
2014-15 — 32 matches, 4 goals, 12 assists
Paris Saint-Germain
2015-16 — 47 matches, 15 goals, 25 assists
2016-17 — 43 matches, 14 goals, 15 assists
2017-18 — 45 matches, 21 goals, 12 assists
2018-19 — 32 matches, 10 goals, 11 assists