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Ligue 1: Mbappe scores no. 14; PSG enjoying massive lead

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PARIS (AP) Kylian Mbappe struck his French league-leading 14th goal as Paris Saint-Germain won at Amiens 3-0 on Saturday.

[ MORE: What we learned in the Premier League, Week 22 ]

The 20-year-old Mbappe has 14 goals in only 13 games, compared to 13 in 27 matches last season for PSG. France’s World Cup star is well on course to eclipse his best tally of 15 in 2017, when he was a rising star of world soccer and won the title with Monaco.

The win moved PSG 13 points clear of second-place Lille , having played two games less.

Edinson Cavani put PSG ahead from the penalty spot after 57 minutes and, after Mbappe struck in the 70th, center half Marquinhos completed the scoring in the 79th.

It was a return to winning ways after the humiliating home defeat to struggler Guingamp in the League Cup on Wednesday.

Amiens almost caught PSG with a perfect sucker-punch seconds before halftime, when a PSG free kick was cleared and Colombian Stiven Mendoza sprinted down the field before crossing into the penalty area. The ball fell to midfielder Eddy Gnahore, whose shot was kicked away by goalkeeper Alphonse Areola.

[ MORE: PL Sunday preview: Litmus test time for Spurs, Man United ]

It was a reprieve for PSG, which was missing Brazil star Neymar. He was rested by coach Thomas Tuchel after taking a minor knock to his knee against Guingamp.

“There was a clash of knees and he felt some pain in the knee. He wasn’t free in his movements,” Tuchel said after the Amiens game. “It was too risky (to play him). It’s more important he’s not injured so he can be with us in Doha.”

Qatar-owned PSG is flying to Doha on Sunday for a four-day training camp.

Amiens looked in control until midfielder Alexis Blin slid to block a shot from Angel Di Maria with his arm. In the absence of Neymar, Cavani took the penalty and converted it confidently for his 11th league goal.

Midway through the second half, Amiens went down to 10 men when left back Khaled Adenon was sent off for a second yellow card after pulling back Mbappe.

Moments later, Mbappe swept in a fine cross from Cavani following a counterattack quickly launched by midfielder Julian Draxler, who dribbled his way into the area to set up Marquinhos.

PST Roundtable: 2018 in Review

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ProSoccerTalk continues its Best of 2018 by taking our staff on a trip down (around) memory lane with the final Roundtable of the calendar year (unless Pele unretires between now and Midnight ET).

[ MORE: Best of 2018 ]


1) You can only save one Premier League memory from 2018. What do you choose?

Joe Prince-Wright: I am going with Liverpool’s 4-3 win against Man City at Anfield in January 2018. What a game between two teams going at it and playing very different ways to the highest possible level. It was a precursor for some epic Champions League battles between Liverpool and Man City.

Nicholas Mendola: At the risk of cloying this space, Arsene Wenger‘s “send off series” was special, especially when Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho came together to salute the long time Arsenal boss at Old Trafford. The final matches in charge of the Gunners was an emotional and refreshing storyline for both Arsenal and those who like to see an under-fire legend get his just desserts.

Kyle Bonn: Has to be Manchester City’s dominance and Pep Guardiola’s juggernaut. I absolutely loved watching that team, especially given how much of a mess it was when Pep first got there. He turned around so many players, namely John Stones and Raheem Sterling, and that’s always something special.

Dan Karell: It was from last January but it’s got to be Liverpool 4-3 Manchester City. Man City wrapped up the title early and recorded a record amount of goals and points, but this was arguably the game of the season. Terrific action for all 90 minutes.

(AP Photo/Dave Thompson)

2) Remember the World Cup? That was just this summer! What was your favorite part of the tournament? How about the USMNT’s efforts in it?

Joe Prince-Wright: I obviously enjoyed England’s run to the World Cup semi-finals and I honestly believe they would have matched up very well against France and would have had a great chance of winning it all. The way Gareth Southgate’s young side made an entire nation believe again and changed the mood around the Three Lions completely was truly remarkable to see. Also, LOL about the USMNT. What a debacle that should never be repeated. Simple.

Nicholas Mendola: Not the Lionel Messi sub plot, as even his fine performances couldn’t overcome the hype about whether it was enough for his legacy. Also, not Serbia getting the short end of the officiating stick on multiple occasions.

There were some great matches! The final was special, as was France 4-3 Argentina in the Round of 16. But Belgium and Japan turning a 0-0 halftime into a 2-0 Japanese lead en route to a 3-2 Belgium win, with Nacer Chadli scoring in stoppage? Holy smoke what a game.

Kyle Bonn: I think my favorite part of the tournament was appreciating the parity that came along with it. Germany bombed out in the group stages, Argentina looked pedestrian, and Spain looked fallible, all while Croatia built a juggernaut, Peru looked competitive, and Sweden won a group. This was the world’s World Cup and that was fascinating.

Also, the USMNT didn’t lose a single game all tournament, so I’ll give them an A-

Dan Karell: Ugh, stop! I think England’s run to the semifinals was a lot of fun, along with Croatia’s constant wins in penalty kick shootouts and them overcoming the odds again and again. Ultimately, France was too talented to be stopped, and Didier Deschamps did a masterful job keeping them tight defensively and letting his side’s speed and counter-attacking ability steal the show.

(Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

3) Which player do you hold in higher esteem than you did entering 2018? Who’s much lower?

Joe Prince-Wright: David Silva. I always knew he was good. But I didn’t quite appreciate how good. He is essential to Pep Guardiola’s style and will probably go down as one of City’s best-ever players, if not the best.

Lower… I am going with Daniel Sturridge. Perhaps a little harsh, but I thought he would be able to work his way into this Liverpool attack as the first back-up. He hasn’t achieved that at all.

Nicholas Mendola: I knew Christian Pulisic was good before Jan. 1, 2018, but how much of a factor he’s become in every match is beyond compare on an American level. There’s Clint Dempsey in 2011-12 at Fulham for the gold standard of Americans Abroad, and the question of whether he matches it, improves on it, or does it again and again.

As for lower, and I know this is heavy territory, but pretty much the way everyone associated with Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus dealt with the rape accusations against him. Allegations are allegations until proven true, but showing a modicum of class to the victim (and all victims) would’ve been nice.

Kyle Bonn: If this is possible…Mohamed Salah. I always love seeing players go from one-hit wonder to actually good player, and while only the ultimate of cynics believe the Liverpool star would ultimately fade as just a flash in the pan, I enjoyed seeing it proven on the field.

Less, I have to go with Alvaro Morata. I thought he would be a slam dunk at Chelsea, and his disastrous tenure has led to rumors of a quick exit. I am quite disappointed in his performances there and his inability to find the scoresheet despite a wealth of talent around him. It’s a shame, because he showed so much promise at Real Madrid, and I hope he finds success either with a second chance at Chelsea or someone else who gives him an opportunity after Stamford Bridge.

Dan Karell: Anthony Martial. His second half of 2018 has been tremendous compared to his previous 18 months in Manchester, which all led to him missing out on the World Cup. A player who’s stock has dropped for me is his teammate, Alexis Sanchez. After joining Man United in January. Sanchez has been invisible this season and it’s unclear if Man United will ever recoup its investment in Sanchez.

(Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

4) Who is the soccer world’s person of 2018?

Joe Prince-Wright: Luka Modric. What he managed to achieve with both Real Madrid and Croatia, plus win multiple top awards as the best player on the planet, was exceptional. The Croatian midfielder was a total team player and made his teammates better due to his hard work, vision and delivering in clutch moments. His role to lead Croatia to the World Cup final was reminiscent of Diego Maradona and Pele leading their respective nations to glory in the past. Modric was Croatia’s talisman as they just came up short by losing to France in the final.

Nicholas Mendola: Kylian Mbappe. At the age of 20, with club turmoil caused by Neymar and Edinson Cavani and the pressure of an entire country, Mbappe led France to a World Cup title and Paris Saint-Germain to plenty of wins. But even better than that is the example he sets at such a young age, donating his World Cup winnings to charity and admitting that footballers are paid an “indecent” wage.

Kyle Bonn: Great – and tough – question. So many good options. Jurgen Klopp has to be my choice though, as he’s finally seeing his Liverpool project come to fruition. The Reds made the 2018 Champions League final and have shaken their inability to perform against bottom sides in Premier League play. It’s always fun to see a years-long project not only committed to, but completed. The Reds are a scary team to play for anyone in the world, and that’s down to the revolutionary tactics and recruitment of Jurgen Klopp.

Dan Karell: If it’s a manager, it’s got to be a tie between Didier Deschamps and Pep Guardiola for everything they succeeded. Perhaps it’s even Zinedine Zidane, who took the bold move to resign as Real Madrid manager after a third-successive Champions League title.

(Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

5) What topic are you extremely happy to leave in 2018: the USMNT coaching search, Jose Mourinho at Manchester United, or a third option?

Joe Prince-Wright: USMNT coaching search definitely. Quite why that took so long was outrageous. Berhalter could have been appointed months sooner than he was to start building the identity of the team. That would have been a smarter move. Southampton’s 2018 was also woeful, so I am happy to leave that there as the squad they have should be pushing for a top 10 finish, not battling against relegation for a second-straight season. I actually think that history will be kind to Jose Mourinho’s reign at Manchester United, but it just became so boring and predictable towards the end and we have already seen the gloom has lifted at Old Trafford. It worked out well for everyone, even Mourinho.

Nicholas Mendola: The USMNT coaching search. At some point we were speculating on David Moyes taking the job because he was on the train to a friendly. Cool. Real cool.

Kyle Bonn: I was happy to see the USMNT coaching search finally come to an end, but disappointed in the result. I was glad to see Jose Mourinho leave Manchester United for the health of the club, but not for those of us covering the team (what a ride!). Honestly, I’m happiest to see the World Cup cycle leave, because the USMNT gets to start from scratch looking forward to 2022. While many have predictions and reservations about the US National Team at this juncture, it will be for the team to prove on the field, and Gregg Berhalter has a chance to lead an emotional redemption for the group.

Dan Karell: Jose Mourinho for sure. The constant moaning to the media, throwing players under the bus, and holding his players back got really old, really fast. Yes, the opposition in the last couple of games isn’t as good, but you can see that the Man United players have the shackles removed and are starting to look as if they enjoy their profession again.

(AP Photo/Dave Thompson)

6) Free skate: Any other thoughts about 2018?

Joe Prince-Wright: Watching Man City’s record breaking season up close was amazing. They made history and have set the bar incredibly high for the rest of the Premier League.

It was a reflective year for many Premier League teams who took steps towards long-term progression. Liverpool finally bought world-class defensive players, Man United sacked their manager, Arsene Wenger left Arsenal and Chelsea moved on with an exciting tactical project. Man City have leveled off a little but are still incredible to watch, while Mauricio Pochettino and Tottenham are still defying the odds and will actually move into their new stadium soon. The top six have been fascinating to watch in 2018, and given four of them are in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League, it seems like English soccer has had a real resurgence on the European stage too.

Nicholas Mendola: I don’t want to be a downer and I know Leicester City happened just a few years ago, but it seems like it’s the end of non-giants making charges toward the Top Four. It’s not Liverpool’s fault for joining Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, and Man City in spending ungodly amounts of dough. It’s not just about the money, because those arguments are also annoying and look at Everton and West Ham, but it is frustrating.

Kyle Bonn: 2018 was a great year of soccer, but the failures of the USMNT certainly bring it down from our perspective. There needs to be growth there moving forward, or it will be tough to build on the growing fanbase in this country.

Dan Karell: Regarding the U.S. men’s national team, it was an empty year that should have had a World Cup appearance to go with it. We saw a lot of new players make their debuts and other youngsters receive more minutes, but the team felt like the Israelites wandering for 40 years searching for the Land of Israel, with no direction. Hopefully now, with Gregg Berhalter (Moses?) in charge, the USMNT can find the promised land.

Another note: Atlanta United’s incredible success can’t go unnoted. To create a title-winning team in two years is incredible difficult, and the organization has raised the bar for MLS even higher. 2018 was a huge step for the league. Let’s see what 2019 brings.
(AP Photo/Todd Kirkland)

Ligue 1: Mbappe’s winner for PSG; Monaco still struggling

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PARIS (AP) Two days after celebrating his 20th birthday, Kylian Mbappe grabbed Paris Saint-Germain’s winner against Nantes in a scrappy 1-0 home result on Saturday.

With PSG heading toward a third straight French league draw, Mbappe slid in at the back post to stab home Angel Di Maria’s corner from the right in the 68th minute.

It took France’s World Cup star to the top of the league scoring charts with 13, and ensured PSG heads into the winter break unbeaten in domestic competitions.

PSG is 13 points ahead of second-placed Lille, which lost at home to Toulouse 2-1 and has played two games more than PSG.

Third-placed Lyon closed the gap on Lille to two points as forward Nabil Fekir netted for the third straight game in a 1-1 draw at fourth-place Montpellier. Lyon has a game in hand on Lille, and Montpellier has one in hand on Lyon after previous weekends saw a spate of postponements due to widespread anti-government protests around the country.

Saint-Etienne was the big winner on the night, moving level on points with Montpellier after a comfortable 3-0 home win against Dijon. Saint-Etienne’s front line worked well, with Kevin Monnet-Paquet, Wahbi Khazri and Robert Beric all scoring.

At the other end of the table, the pressure was mounting on beleaguered Monaco coach Thierry Henry after losing at home to last-placed Guingamp 2-0. Since taking charge in October, Henry has won only three out of 14 matches overall.

Monaco was in 19th place and only two points ahead of Guingamp, which scored in the second half through forwards Marcus Thuram and Nolan Roux.

Ballon d’Or: Modric ends Messi, Ronaldo’s 10-year duopoly

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Luke Modric was named 2018 Ballon d’Or winner on Monday, breaking up the decade-long reign of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo — or, is it Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi? — who had each won the award five times in the last 10 years.

[ MORE: VAR coming to Champions League in February; Pep “delighted” ]

The 33-year-old midfielder played a pivotal part for Real Madrid as Los Blancos lifted their third straight UEFA Champions League trophy — the first club to win it back-to-back, let alone back-to-back-to-back — and was even more central to Croatia unexpectedly reaching the World Cup final, where they ultimately lost to France.

Messi finished fifth in voting for the 2018 award — the first time he’s been outside the top-three since 2006 — while Ronaldo finished second behind his former Madrid teammate. World Cup winners Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe finished third and fourth, respectively.

Mbappe took home the inaugural Kopa Trophy, given to the best player under the age of 21. American attacker Christian Pulisic finished second.

[ MORE: FA Cup draw: PL giants handed lower-league opponents ]

Lyon and Norway forward Ada Hegerberg was crowned the first-ever female Ballon d’Or winner after someone realized that female players should be celebrated, too. Unfortunately, organizers felt the event needed a DJ and Martin Solveig chose to disgrace himself and Hegerberg’s accomplishment with a hugely inappropriate comment.

Fortunately, Hegerberg was able to impart a great bit of wisdom and inspiration before Solveig intervened and hijacked the moment.

French couple in legal fight to name son ‘Griezmann Mbappe’

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A French couple are currently in a legal battle to name their son after two of France’s World Cup winning stars.

“Ah, he’s so cute, little Griezmann Mbappe” has a ring to it right?

Maybe not, but still, why is this an issue? The parents have named their son after two legends of French soccer, players they obviously admire.

Is this any different than someone calling their son James because they love watching LeBron James play basketball? Okay, that was a bad example…

According to local reports in La Montagne, the baby was born in the southern town of Brive earlier this month and has already been given the name. However, due to laws in France stating that the name must be changed if it “is contrary to the interest of the child” the police may force his parents to name him something else.

I’m looking forward to his first birthday when he gets two special visitors turning up at the front door…