PARIS (AP)The ”MNM” trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe all scored Tuesday to fire PSG into the knockout stage of the Champions League.
The Qatari-backed club thrashed Maccabi Haifa 7-2 to advance to the round of 16 for an 11th straight season.
Messi and Mbappe both scored twice, with Maccabi’s Abdoulaye Seck also bagging a brace at the Parc des Princes. Sean Goldberg scored an own-goal and substitute Carlos Soler got the seventh for PSG.
PSG’s potent trio of forwards combined well throughout the evening against Maccabi, which played boldly but found itself exposed too often and was made to pay a heavy price.
”They all scored, they had a great match, they were decisive,” PSG defender Marquinhos said about the MNM forwards. ”When they play like this, it’s hard for the opposing team.”
PSG was not as impressive defensively and conceded two easy goals from set pieces.
Unbeaten in all competitions this season, PSG qualified from a lopsided Group H along with Benfica, which beat Juventus 4-3. With one round of games to go, PSG and Benfica both have 11 points, eight more than Juventus and Maccabi.
PSG travels to Juventus next week, and Maccabi hosts Benfica.
Maccabi started with an intense, high press combined with man-marking. The referee briefly stopped the game after only a couple of minutes because of a lack of visibility caused by flares lit in a section of the stadium hosting Maccabi fans.
PSG looked a bit shaky after the brief interruption and missed a glorious chance in the ninth minute when Fabian Ruiz was picked up by Neymar inside the box only to ruin the move with a heavy first touch followed up with a left-footed effort off target.
PSG quickly took a grip on the match but Neymar was clumsy in front of goal, too. The Brazil forward opened his foot a bit too much from Mbappe’s back pass in the 18th and sent his effort wide.
PSG broke the deadlock in the next minute when Mbappe found Messi on the left side of the box. The Argentina star coolly slotted home with a delicate shot inside the post with the outside of his left foot.
Mbappe made it 2-0 in the 32nd at the conclusion of an impressive counterattack. The Frenchman collected the ball down the left, picked out Neymar for a one-two then tried to put the ball back in his path. Maccabi defenders managed to stop it but the rebound came to Mbappe, who finished off the move.
Neymar added his name to the scoresheet three minutes later after yet another good combination from the MNM trio started by Mbappe.
The PSG defense was caught napping, though, and allowed Maccabi to pull one back in the 38th from a free kick headed home by Seck.
The respite for the visitors was brief as Messi made it 4-1 just before the interval with a trademark low shot from outside the area into the bottom corner.
PSG came under pressure at the start of the second half, with Maccabi threatening twice through Seck and forward Frantzdy Pierrot. Seck finally managed to score his second goal with a header into the far corner after PSG failed to clear a corner.
Mbappe then made it 5-2 from Achraf Hakimi’s long cross before Goldberg beat his own ‘keeper as he tried to clear a cross from Neymar in the 67th. Soler capped a prolific evening for PSG from Messi’s assist.
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