PARIS, France– Neymar
dedicated his second goal in Paris Saint-Germain’s 2-0 win at Lille to
basketball legend Kobe Bryant, whose death in a helicopter crash earlier on
Sunday shocked the world, as his double shot the French champions 10 points
clear at the top of Ligue 1.
The world’s most expensive player slotted home the
52nd-minute penalty and went over to television cameras by the side of the
Stade Pierre Mauroy pitch to make the number 24 with his fingers in honour of
Bryant’s shirt number.
“It’s deeply saddening for the world of sport and for
all of us,” said Neymar to Canal+ after the win, which put PSG 10 points
clear at the top of the league.
“Not just for basketball fans, but for everything he
did for sport.”
He had already put his side ahead with a fine strike in the
first half before putting the game out of reach and increasing the gap between
them and second-placed Marseille.
His 12th league goal of the season tipped the balance in the
Parisians’ favour after a positive start for the home side, who were unbeaten
at home ahead of the match.
The Brazilian almost immediately slipped through Mbappe but
the onrushing Mike Maignan stopped the France World Cup winner from clinching
his 14th top-flight effort of the campaign.
Mbappe was stopped again by Maignan when he got his body in
the way of a fierce close-range effort, but the away side were given a penalty
soon after for a clear Gabriel handball just before the forward’s shot.
Neymar squeezed his spot-kick just beyond Maignan, who got his
hand to the shot but looked on in horror as it made its way in off the post.
“We deserved to win, I think we played well,” said
PSG coach Thomas Tuchel.
“We controlled the match and counter-attacks and this
is not easy to do against a good team like Lille.”
Lille stay seventh after the defeat, two points away from
the European places.
– Emotional day –
Neymar’s tribute came on what was already an emotional day
in French football, with Nantes and Bordeaux also honouring their former
striker Emiliano Sala, a year after his death in a plane crash.
The clubs remembered Argentine forward Sala before the Derby
de l’Atlantique at the Stade de la Beaujoire.
Bordeaux won 1-0 courtesy of a late goal by Jimmy Briand as
Nantes played most the second half with 10 men after the dismissal of Andrei
The 28-year-old Sala was killed last January when the small
plane taking him to join Cardiff City after being bought from Nantes for £15
million ($19.5 million) crashed off the Channel island of Guernsey.
Nantes wore a special white and pale blue shirt inspired by
Argentina while Bordeaux’s kit featured an Argentine flag beneath the club
crest flanked by the player’s initials.
Proceeds from the sales of the strips will go to the two
Argentine clubs Sala played for in his youth.
A portrait of Sala was also displayed in the centre circle
during the warm-up and there was a minute’s applause ahead of kick-off.
Supporters laid flowers outside the ground and broke out
into a song commemorating Sala in the ninth minute, representing the shirt
number worn by the player which has since been retired by Nantes.
Sala left his homeland to join Bordeaux in 2012 and then
played for Nantes between 2015 and 2019.
Earlier Karl Toko Ekambi scored on his Lyon debut Sunday in
a 3-0 victory over bottom club Toulouse.
Cameroon striker Toko Ekambi, who joined on loan this week
from Villarreal until the end of the season, sealed the win six minutes later
as Lyon climbed up to fifth in Ligue 1.
Toko Ekambi came on as a first-half substitute after a scary
incident involving France Under-21 forward Martin Terrier.
Terrier was stretchered off after fainting on the pitch, but
Lyon said at half-time the player had regained consciousness.