PARIS (AFP) – Kylian Mbappe’s excellent volley secured Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) a hardfought 1-0 win at Saint-Etienne on Sunday night as the runaway Ligue 1 leaders moved 12 points clear at the summit.
The 20-year-old Mbappe fired home his league-leading 19th goal of the campaign with 17 minutes remaining.
“He (Mbappe) shows his quality every day in training, he has this hunger to score, score, score,” said PSG coach Tuchel. “It’s his quality. He is a special player.”
Mbappe has now scored 45 goals for PSG since signing from Monaco at the start of last season.
“We lost to a goal from nowhere… A 20-year-old who will soon be the best player in the world,” said Saint-Etienne coach Jean-Louis Gasset.
With a second straight French title all but secured, Tuchel’s men, who also have two games in hand on second-placed Lille, now have their eyes on breaking their own record tally of 96 points set in 2015-16.
Tuchel rested midfielder Marco Verratti after his excursions in the midweek Champions League victory at Manchester United, with Leandro Paredes handed his first league start for the club.
“Everyone was tired after Manchester United – physically, but also mentally,” added Tuchel. “It was necessary to control the game, to play focussed.”
PSG fashioned their first clear-cut chance in the 18th minute, as Julian Draxler turned and fired over the crossbar after a fine exchange of passes with Dani Alves.
Mbappe saw a shot well saved by home goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier in an underwhelming first half.
The visitors always appeared in control of the game, but Draxler wasted another golden chance to put them ahead shortly after the restart when he was denied by a sprawling Ruffier stop.
Angel Di Maria, who starred with two assists on his return to Old Trafford in midweek, dragged an effort wide as PSG continued to plug away in search of an opening goal.
It arrived in the 73rd minute, as Alves picked out the run of Mbappe, and the Frenchman caught out Ruffier with a fine first-time volley on the turn.
Saint-Etienne started to show more ambition with time running out, but the best they could muster was Kevin Monnet-Paquet’s long-range strike which flew harmlessly over, with the winger injuring himself in the process.
A late set-piece came to nothing for Les Verts, as PSG sealed a 20th win from only 23 Ligue 1 games this term.