LENS: Paris Saint-Germain, without World Cup winner Lionel Messi and Neymarlost for the first time in all competitions since March 20 in their 3-1 defeat at Lens on Sunday.
“Lens deserved his win,” said PSG trainer Christophe Galtier.
Openda Laws scored one and created another as Lens, who have lost just once in Ligue 1 this season, closed the gap on top PSG to four points after 17 rounds.
“We are happy to be four points behind,” said Lensois coach Franck Haise. “This victory proves that you can beat anyone in this championship.”
PSG’s last defeat was more than nine months ago when they lost 3-0 at Monaco in Ligue 1, although that still left them 12 points clear at the top of the table.
Sunday in Lens, PSG were deprived of Messi and the suspended Brazilian Neymar, but Kylian Mbappe, the Golden Boot in Qatar, was warmly welcomed by Lensois supporters during the warm-up.
Galtier said he hoped French fans would give Messi a similar reception.
“He will join us on January 3, in 48 hours,” Galtier said. “I hope Leo will be well received. He won the most beautiful trophy by being very good. We know he is a great decisive player so we hope he will be well received of course.”
“Kylian worked,” Galtier said. “He showed a really good attitude.”
“Leo and ‘Ney’ weren’t there but that’s no excuse.”
Lens took the lead after five minutes when PSG goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma blocked an effort from Massadio Haidara to Przemyslaw Frankowski who scored.
Hugo Ekitike replied three minutes later, striking hard as Brice Samba dived to recover a cross and sent the ball into the hands of the Lens goalkeeper.
Lens took control after 28 minutes. Seko Fofana took possession of the ball at the edge of his own box, ran through a few challenges and then measured a pass between the PSG centre-backs to Openda. Belgium sprinted flawlessly and had a shot under Donnarumma.
Lens pressed from the start of the second half and in the 48th minute took possession of the ball deep in PSG’s half.
The ball reached Openda in the box, its backheel left the defense flat and allowed Alexis Claude Maurice to take a touch and score from close range.
The French league normally take holidays off, but with matches to catch up after the World Cup, they played one round immediately after Christmas and another on Sunday and Monday.
They have dubbed the games “Celebration Week”, in English, as a nod to the English tradition of Boxing Day games, but many fans are either suspicious or hostile.
Among the protest banners unfurled by supporters in an almost empty stand in Nantes, where the home side beat Auxerre 1-0, was one complaining that the league and broadcasters were “killing” them.
In Monaco, Aleksandr Golovin scored the only goal from outside the penalty area as the home side did just enough to beat Brest 1-0 and tighten their grip on fourth place.
Angers remain rooted to the bottom after suffering a ninth straight defeat, losing 2-1 to Lorient who broke their own six-game losing streak.
Moroccan World Cup stars of home side Sofiane Boufal and Azzedine Ounahi, who have just returned from vacation and are believed to have been promised lucrative transfers, were honored ahead of the game but did not show up.
“I was happy to see Sofiane and Azzedine,” said Angers coach Abdel Bouhazama. “For the moment, they are there. For the rest, I leave that to the leaders of the club. I take care of what happens on the pitch.”



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