HAIFA, Israel (AP)Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe set each other up and Neymar added a late goal, adding gloss to an otherwise disappointing performance as Paris Saint-Germain won 3-1 at Maccabi Haifa in the Champions League on Wednesday.
After Maccabi midfielder Tjaronn Chery volleyed in a cross in the 24th minute, Messi gave a sloppy PSG side a much-needed equalizer from Mbappe’s cross from the right in the 37th.
”We fell asleep a bit and conceded the first goal. Then we were able to make the difference after that,” Mbappe said. ”I hope all three of us continue to score because it means we’ll win games.”
Messi’s exquisitely weighted pass then sent Mbappe running down the left in the 69th, and he clipped the ball into the bottom right corner for his third goal in two group games.
Neymar latched onto Marco Verratti’s lofted pass from midfield in the 88th, controlled the ball on his right thigh and drilled it in to end a barren run in the Champions League dating back to December 2020.
PSG tops Group H with six points along with Benfica, which won 2-1 at Juventus in the other game.
But this was a disjointed PSG performance at times against a Maccabi side inspired by the silky Chery.
”We need to work hard and we need to improve quickly in the way we play,” Mbappe told broadcaster Canal Plus.
Wearing the No. 10 jersey – but far less illustrious than PSG’s No. 10, Neymar – Chery went close to making it 2-0 on the stroke of halftime.
With some brilliant improvisation that Neymar would have been proud of, Chery juggled the ball three times and then hit a fizzing 25-meter shot that PSG goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma palmed away low down.
Mbappe missed a chance early on when he tried and failed to round Maccabi’s goalkeeper Joshua Cohen. Donnarumma then made a low save before the home side struck first.
When PSG carelessly lost the ball in midfield yet again – 39 times in the first 30 minutes – Maccabi moved it quickly to the right. Dolev Haziza whipped in a cross that Chery expertly volleyed in with his left foot from close range past a stranded Donnarumma.
As in previous seasons, PSG’S team spirit was lacking and none of the stars responded until Mbappe burst down the left and clipped a deflected pass inside for Messi to guide the ball home in the 37th.
But Maccabi cut through PSG’s weak midfield soon after the break and had two half-chances. Neymar seemed to lose patience with his teammates, chatting at length with Verratti and Marquinhos, but PSG’s attack made the difference again.
Mbappe netted with two sharp volleys in PSG’s 2-1 win against Juventus last week, while Maccabi opened the group stage with a 2-0 defeat at Benfica.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports