Lionel Messi scored twice in the space of seven minutes as Paris Saint-Germain grabbed a 3-2 victory over RB Leipzig in a thrilling Champions League encounter.
Kylian Mbappe had fired PSG into a ninth-minute lead, yet Andre Silva deservedly pulled Leipzig level in what was another laboured and imbalanced performance from PSG on Tuesday.
Shorn of the injured Neymar, Mauricio Pochettino’s team looked set to be punished when Nordi Mukiele scored Leipzig’s second to put them ahead just prior to the hour at Parc des Princes.
However, Messi was on hand to stem Leipzig’s hopes of a first Champions League win of the campaign with a somewhat fortuitous finish, before the former Barcelona superstar chipped home the winner from the penalty spot.
Mbappe slammed a second penalty high over the bar in stoppage time, though PSG still moved to the top of Group A.
Preferred to Gianluigi Donnarumma, Keylor Navas had to be alert early on, denying Konrad Laimer and then Silva.
But PSG struck first as Julian Draxler fed Mbappe who, after isolating Willi Orban, wrongfooted Peter Gulacsi with a superb low finish to cap off a supreme counter-attack.
Silva was inches away from restoring parity with a fantastic volley that clattered off the post, though PSG’s luck ran out when the Portugal forward stole in unmarked to tuck in Angelino’s cross.
PSG’s defensive frailties were exposed again after the restart – Angelino whipping in another fantastic cross that was side-footed home by his fellow wing-back Mukiele.
Yet Leipzig’s hard work was undone when Mbappe latched onto a loose ball and turned it back for Messi. His shot was palmed onto the post, but he followed in to nudge home on the line.
The turnaround was complete in the 74th minute. With Mbappe having drawn a clumsy push from Mohamed Simakan, Messi stepped up to send a Panenka down the middle from 12 yards.
Messi seemed all set to round off his hat-trick when a second spot-kick was awarded PSG’s way for a foul on Achraf Hakimi, only for Mbappe to take it instead, with the France forward blazing over.
With Leipzig dominating after their second goal, Pochettino brought on Danilo Pereira and switched to a back three.
The change in shape worked, matching their opponents and freeing up Messi to play alongside Mbappe, with the two working in tandem to level proceedings.
Defensively, PSG were far too porous, allowing 18 attempts on their goal. However, they had the quality up top to pull through, while Jesse Marsch’s Leipzig sit bottom of Group A, and seem almost certain to be heading out.
Messi makes the difference
While Messi’s first PSG goal – a sublime strike in the win over Manchester City – was of the calibre you would expect from the world’s greatest player, his second effort was rather scrappier, with Gulacsi making a mess of getting the first shot away.
Messi’s third goal, however, displayed all the quality and composure the mercurial 34-year-old has at his disposal. He is level with Mauro Icardi and Neymar in terms of PSG players with the most Champions League goals in their first three appearances in the competition, but really, he should have been given the opportunity to move clear in that regard.
Mbappe adds sour note with dreadful spot-kick
It would be wrong to suggest Mbappe had a poor game. In fact, alongside Marco Verratti, he was probably PSG’s best player. His opener was a sensational finish, and brought up his 40th direct goal involvement in the Champions League for the Parisians.
He then won PSG’s first penalty, after setting up the goal that made it 2-2, but perhaps his ego got the better of him when he denied Messi the chance of a hat-trick. There were no protestations from his legendary team-mate, though if he is going to pull rank in such a situation, he had to at least hit the target.