PSG's Lionel Messi, left, challenges for the ball with Lille's Benjamin Andre during the French League One soccer match between Paris Saint-Germain and Lille at the Parc des Princes stadium, in Paris, France, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2023 | Photo: AP
Paris: French league leader Paris Saint-Germain gave away a two-goal lead then trailed by one goal with four minutes left before Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi turned things around and helped PSG to a 4-3 win against Lille on Sunday.
As PSG looked set for a fourth consecutive loss in all competitions, Mbappe snatched a late equalizer in the 86th minute at the Parc des Princes. Messi slotted home the winner deep in added time from a free kick, with a lethal left-footed shot into the bottom right corner.
Messi's goal stopped PSG from slumping into a crisis. The hard-fought win followed a 1-0 defeat at home midweek against Bayern in the Champions League that came after a 3-1 defeat to Monaco and another setback against bitter rival Marseille in the French Cup.
After playing just half an hour against Bayern upon returning from a thigh injury, Mbappe was back in Christophe Galtier's starting lineup. His impact throughout made up for PSG's defensive inadequacies.
The Qatari-backed team led 2-0 after 16 minutes following Neymar's goal but the French champions then conceded three times, with Bafode Diakite, Jonathan David and Jonathan Bamba all scoring.
There were obvious signs of nerves amid the PSG ranks from the start.
The hosts were immediately under pressure as Tim Weah found himself unmarked near the edge of the box after David picked him out. The American forward's shot took a deflection and Gianluigi Donnarumma was forced into a reflex save to stop the ball with his feet.
Presnel Kimpembe then put Donnarumma in a difficult situation when he headed the ball back toward the PSG keeper, only to set up David for a one-to-one. The Lille forward looked a bit surprised by the unintended assist and his right-footed shot was not good enough to beat the Italy keeper.
Looking fragile, PSG relied on Mbappe to lead the way.
Set up by Neymar, the France forward burst down the left and cut inside to come face to face with Tiago Djalo and Bafode Diakite. Mbappe nutmegged Djalo and forced his way between the pair, then beat goalkeeper Lucas Chevalier with a low shot in the 12th minute.
PSG doubled its lead five minutes later with a quick collective move ignited and concluded by Neymar, who slotted the ball into an empty net after Vitinha drew Chevalier before delivering his assist.
Neymar was forced off the pitch on a stretcher in the second half after twisting his right ankle.
Despite the comfortable cushion, PSG looked shaky and could not dictate the play. The hosts often found themselves pegged back in their half and did not hold onto their lead for long.
Lille was rewarded for its efforts from a set piece in the 23rd minute, with Diakité heading the ball home from Andre Gomes' cross after a corner.
Things took a turn for the worse for PSG after Marco Verratti pulled Djalo's jersey in the box, prompting the referee to signal a penalty amid protests from PSG players and staff. David took the kick and coolly wrongfooted Donnarumma to level.
Bamba then put Lille in the driving seat with a superb strike from a tight angle into the top corner, leaving Mbappe shaking his head in disbelief.
Mbappe did not give up, though, and put PSG back in the match when he latched onto a back pass from Juan Bernat to slot the ball into the back of the net before Messi sent PSG fans into raptures with his free kick.
Second-placed Marseille later traveled to Toulouse. PSG and Marseille will face off again next week at the Stade Velodrome in the biggest match of French soccer.