Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino defended his selection after fielding Georginio Wijnaldum in Lionel Messi's usual role – as the former Liverpool star toiled in the 1-1 draw at Lyon.

Wijnaldum was deployed in an attacking right-sided role, with Messi ruled out after his recent COVID-19 positive test.

The runaway Ligue 1 leaders managed just three shots on target in a frustrating game, having 68.4 per cent of possession but struggling to make their dominance count, and Pochettino lamented their slow start after the final whistle.

PSG required a late strike from substitute Thilo Kehrer to take a point, having trailed for over an hour after Lucas Paqueta's early goal.

Wijnaldum had only one shot, which did not hit the target, while on the opposite flank Kylian Mbappe failed with five shots, although two hit the goal frame.

Netherlands international Wijnaldum, who signed for PSG last June, had a 95.6 per cent passing accuracy rate, but he struggled to pose a substantial attacking threat to mid-table Lyon.

Asked after the game to assess Wijnaldum's struggles, Pochettino defended his decision to field the midfielder in such an advanced role, and in a variety of positions during his short PSG career.

Pochettino, quoted in L'Equipe, said: "It is also a question of balance, of players available. I don't think it's a question of position but of states of form.

"Wijnaldum has a lot of experience, he has been at great clubs. He is used to playing in different positions."

 

PSG mounted their recovery after substituting central midfielders Leandro Paredes and Ander Herrera on the 69-minute mark, with Wijnaldum following them off the pitch late in the game.

"When we changed, we were looking for freshness. The introductions of Thilo Kehrer, Xavi Simons and Edouard Michut brought energy and enthusiasm," Pochettino said.

"They played part in the equaliser and they carried the team, so I'm happy."

PSG remain 11 points clear at the top of the Ligue 1 table, but have now drawn four of their last five league games.

Paris Saint-Germain struggled their way to a point at Lyon, with substitute Thilo Kehrer cancelling out Lucas Paqueta's early goal to earn a 1-1 draw.

PSG were missing a number of stars, with Lionel Messi joining the injured Neymar on the sidelines after a recent positive COVID-19 test, and the league leaders produced a limp performance on a largely frustrating night in Lyon.

Lucas Paqueta fired the hosts into an early lead, while Kylian Mbappe went closest for the visitors in a disappointing first period.

Lyon were content to hit their opponents on the counter after the break, but they were hit by the blow of Kehrer's soft second-half strike.

The home side needed just seven minutes to take the lead, with the returning Paqueta firing a low strike across Keylor Navas and into the far corner, after he was expertly released by Brazilian compatriot Bruno Guimaraes.

Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes saved solidly from Leandro Paredes' drive on 20 minutes, before visiting skipper Marquinhos lobbed onto the roof of the net as PSG looked for a leveller.

Mbappe hit the side-netting, then clipped the outside of the post with a deft strike as the break approached, but Lyon ended an impressive first half with more shots on target than their lacklustre visitors.

Mauro Icardi missed a decent volleyed chance shortly after half-time, before Navas made a huge one-on-one save from Moussa Dembele, as Lyon looked to hit their opponents on the break.

But PSG finally found a leveller with 14 minutes remaining, when Kehrer's attempt found the far left corner, a tame sidefooted shot beating Lopes.

Mbappe again clipped the woodwork, this time with a late free-kick, as PSG pushed in vain for a winner.

Kylian Mbappe is widely expected to join Real Madrid at the end of this season.

The 23-year-old attacker has stalled on a new contract offer at Paris Saint-Germain.

Madrid have been circling for Mbappe's signature for a long time and had multiple bids rejected in 2021.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE COULD STILL RE-SIGN WITH PSG

Mbappe could spring a surprise and renew his current PSG deal prior to the end of this season, claims Le Parisien.

The 2018 World Cup winner had been expected to become a free agent when his contract expires on June 30 and join Madrid .

Le Parisien claims that PSG have hope that Mbappe may pen an extension to force a transfer fee from Los Blancos, should they pursue a move. Mbappe is still undecided on his future, according to the report.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United 's superstar forward Cristiano Ronaldo has held crisis talks with his agent Jorge Mendes as he considers his future with the Red Devils, according to The Sun. Ronaldo reportedly may leave United depending on their choice of a new permanent manager.

- El Nacional claims that Liverpool are ready to offer Barcelona teenager Gavi a deal worth £80,000 (€96k) per week to secure his signature, while Manchester City are also interested. Barca have a £42m (€50m) release cause in the 17-year-old's contract.

- Arsenal want to sign a new midfielder in January with Lyon's Bruno Guimaraes on their radar while a loan deal for Arthur Melo was discussed but has not advanced to talks with Juventus yet, claims Fabrizio Romano.

- Argentinean forward Dario Benedetto is set to return to his homeland to join Boca Juniors from Marseille although the deal may take several days to complete, reports Cesar Luis Merlo.

- Nicolo Schira claims that Newcastle United have opened discussions with Sevilla on a four-year deal to sign Brazilian defender Diego Carlos .

- West Ham United and Newcastle may be priced out of their pursuit for Marseille's Boubacar Kamara,  who wants a £150,000-per-week (€180k) deal according to The Sun.

Paris Saint-Germain will be without Lionel Messi for Sunday's Ligue 1 trip to Lyon.

Messi tested positive for COVID-19 while back home in Argentina and subsequently missed PSG’s 4-0 victory over Vannes in the Coupe de France on Monday.

However, the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner returned a negative test on Wednesday and was set to be available to face Lyon.

Yet Ligue 1 leaders confirmed on Saturday that the 34-year-old will "continue his post-COVID individual recovery protocol for the next few days."

 

PSG also revealed that Angel Di Maria, Julian Draxler, Danilo Pereira, Layvin Kurzawa and Gianluigi Donnarumma remain in isolation after recently returning positive tests.

Meanwhile, Neymar is resuming his rehabilitation and is scheduled to return to training in three weeks' time.

Head coach Mauricio Pochettino acknowledges that PSG must adapt in the absence of players, but insists that every team is in the same boat.

During his pre-match press conference, he said: "All teams have absent players; so do we. We have to adapt to everyday life. Sometimes, we have to change our plans.

"It's the same every game, we always have to make choices. We have to put the players in the best conditions."

On the prospect of facing Peter Bosz's Lyon side, he added: "They are one of the best teams in France. 

"There is a very great coach. In the end, they will be fighting for the first places.

"It will be difficult, but we are optimistic."

Aaron Ramsey has not had the best of times since moving to Juventus.

The Wales midfielder joined Juve from Arsenal in 2019 on a four-year deal.

Ramsey has only managed 70 appearances in an injury hit two and a half years with Juventus.

 

TOP STORY – RAMSEY TO LEAVE JUVENTUS IN JANUARY

Aaron Ramsey is set to exit Juventus in the January transfer window, reports Sky Sports.

Italian transfer supremo Gianluca Di Marzio claimed that Ramsey is likely to return to the Premier League, having already turned down an offer from Burnley .

Newcastle United have been linked with Ramsey, along with Everton.

 

ROUND-UP

- Bayern Munich will consider swapping Kingsley Coman with Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele in the off-season, reports L'Equipe. Coman's contract expires in 2023 and negotiations on a new deal have stalled.

- Sky Sports have reported that Newcastle are contemplating a bid for Lucas Digne. The full-back is set to leave Everton this month after a falling out with Rafael Benitez, though supposedly prefers a move to London, with Chelsea and West Ham also said to be interested.

- Everton, meanwhile, hold an interest in Newcastle midfielder Sean Longstaff and have already made a bid, according to the Daily Mail and Sky Sports.

- Paris Saint-Germain may look to sign Lyon's Lucas Paqueta next off-season, so say L'Equipe.

- Manchester United are determined to secure Wolves' Portuguese midfielder Ruben Neves in January, according to The Sun.

- Lazio have opened talks with Liverpool on a deal for Belgium international forward Divock Origi, claims LazioNews24.

- According to Sky Sports, five Premier League clubs have held talks with Barcelona's Philippe Coutinho.

2021 is dead – long live 2022.

It's a new year, and while the one changing to a two literally overnight may seem arbitrary, it gives us an excuse to look ahead and what's on the horizon.

Of course, we're now into a World Cup year – 12 months from now, we'll have newly crowned world champions and, who knows, maybe a new superstar or two will have emerged.

While there's no guarantee about a player's trajectory, Stats Perform have at least put together a list of 22 under-22 players who could be worth keeping an eye out for in 2022.

GOALKEEPERS

Etienne Green, 21, English – Saint-Etienne

Honestly, he's not included just because of the perfection of a player called Etienne Green playing for Les Verts, Saint-Etienne – though that certainly warrants a mention. Colchester-born Green has played 23 times in Ligue 1 for the club, making Leeds United's Ilan Meslier the only goalkeeper born after 2000 to play more often (53) across the top five leagues. In April he became the fourth Ligue 1 keeper since Opta records began (2006-07) to save a penalty on his debut and he's since gone on to nail down a starting spot. Having recently declared for England over France, Green could be an outside bet for Gareth Southgate's squad at Qatar 2022.

Maarten Vandevoordt, 19, Belgian – Genk

In 2019, Vandevoordt became the Champions League's youngest ever goalkeeper at 17 years and 287 days old – it proved to be a bit of a nightmare as Genk lost 4-0, with youngster at fault for two goals. It would've been enough to shatter the confidence of most young players, but Vandevoordt's since gone on to become first-choice, playing 16 league games in 2020-21 and all 21 this term.

DEFENDERS

Kaiky, 17, Brazilian – Santos

If there's any area of the pitch that one might consider to be the hardest to establish yourself in as a young player, most would say centre-back. Yet, despite not turning 18 until January 12, Kaiky has racked up an impressive number of appearances there for Santos. He played more minutes in the 2021 Brasileirao (1,334 minutes) and the Libertadores (495) than any other under-19 player and has impressed with his comfort in possession, aerial ability and demonstrable appetite for defending. He has a long way to go, but he sure has made a promising start.

Becir Omeragic, 19, Swiss – FC Zurich

Omeragic is among the most highly rated young centre-backs in Europe and was in Switzerland's Euro 2020 squad – despite still being only 19, he's already played 71 Swiss Super League games for Zurich. This season he ranks highly in numerous metrics among defenders, such as tackle attempts (29, fifth-highest), interceptions (26, seventh-highest) and possession won (105, fifth-highest), while he offers good progression on the ball, his carry progress of 1,796.6m upfield being the fourth-best among all defenders – two of those are full-backs. Expect to see him in one of Europe's biggest leagues fairly soon.

Ilya Zabarnyi, 19, Ukrainian – Dynamo Kiev

Previously linked with Chelsea, among other major clubs, Zabarnyi caught the eye at Euro 2020 with some mature displays. Despite being the joint-youngest player in the squad, Zabarnyi was one of the five players to play every minute for Ukraine, and among those to feature for at least 100 minutes, he ranked in the top three for touches (72.8) and passes (60.6) on a per-90 basis. Similarly, only four played more passes into the final third than him (4.7), and three of those were midfielders. A move to a bigger league will give us a better idea of just how good Zabarnyi is, but the promise is there.

Ethan Laird, 20, English – Swansea City (on loan from Manchester United)

Manchester United have rated right-back Laird highly for a while – he actually made his senior debut for them as far back as November 2019 in the Europa League. Since then, he showed great promise at Milton Keynes Dons and then followed coach Russell Martin in making the jump to the Championship with Swansea City, where he's continued to impress. Only three defenders in the division have created more chances than him in open play (23), while his five big chances created is the second-most in the Swans squad. With Aaron Wan-Bissaka seemingly unable to kick on at United, Laird's opportunity may arrive in 2022.

Alex Balde, 18, Spanish – Barcelona

Barcelona have seemingly once again become great trusters of youth – not that their situation has given them much of a choice. Balde's not yet one of those to become a regular, and you'd think he will struggle to dislodge Jordi Alba at left-back, but in his four LaLiga appearances the 18-year-old has shown real promise with his ability on the ball and pace. Given his skillset and Xavi's desire to play with classic wingers, he may find himself used further up the pitch – either way, he's definitely one to watch.

George Bello, 19, American – Atlanta United

Nigeria-born Bello may not be 20 until late January, but he's already made a strong impression in MLS, so much so that he became a regular part of the USA's senior side in 2021. Added to that, his 2,433 minutes played was the most of any MLS player to end the season as a teenager. An attack-minded left-back, Bello is excellent on the ball and possesses great pace, and he may well be on the move soon given his contract expires at the end of 2022. If anyone takes a punt, they could be rewarded handsomely.

MIDFIELDERS

Yacine Adli, 21, French – Bordeaux (on loan from Milan)

Milan fans have every reason to be excited about Adli. The kind of silky playmaker that makes almost everything look effortless, he has created more chances after a carry (11) than any other midfielder in Ligue 1 this term. He may not be a great goal threat himself, but his six assists is the second-most among the same group of players (Dimitri Payet has seven) – all of Adli's were from open play, however, which is the most the league's midfielders. Whether he can keep that up at Milan is unclear, but if he can, they'll have a real asset on their hands.

Unai Vencedor, 21, Spanish – Athletic Bilbao

Athletic are one of LaLiga's stranger teams in that they don't win, lose, score or concede very often, yet that's not stopping Vencedor from thriving. A controlling presence with satisfying calmness on the ball in centre midfield, Vencedor is mature for his age and already has significant influence over Athletic's play. Just Iker Muniain and Inaki Williams have been involved in more open-play shot-ending sequences than Vencedor (47) among Athletic players, while the former (eight) is the only one with more instances of being involved in build-up and taking the shot (five) at the end, highlighting his importance to not only keeping them on the ball but also posing an attacking threat.

Nicolo Rovella, 20, Italian – Genoa (on loan from Juventus)

Granted, Rovella's hardly a hidden gem given Juve signed him in a deal potentially worth €20m last January, but he's still not quite a household name. Nevertheless, he looks a real prospect. A deep-lying midfielder, Rovella is elegant on the ball, hard-working without it and excellent at set-pieces. For struggling Genoa this season, his 4.0 possession wins every 90 minutes in the middle third is the 15th highest among Serie A midfielders (min. 500 minutes played), as is his 1.4 successful tackles – though only four players from the same group who have attempted at least 20 boast a better success rate than him (71.4). There's talk he could be recalled by Juve in January, which highlights the impression he's making.

Caden Clark, 18, American – RB Leipzig

With goals against Atlanta United and then Toronto four days later in October 2020, Clark became the youngest player MLS history to score in each of his first two games – the second was an absolute scorcher as well. The 18-year-old agreed a move from New York Red Bulls to RB Leipzig in 2021 and he officially makes the switch in January, with no return loan planned. The technically gifted midfielder has his chance to make it in the big-time, and the Bundesliga has previously been a good next step for MLS stars.

Hannibal Mejbri, 18, Tunisian – Manchester United

Some United fans are disappointed Hannibal didn't get more opportunities under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and he's been restricted with Ralf Rangnick because of his involvement in the Arab Cup and the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations. But when he returns, there's every indication he may get more chances, or at least that's what Rangnick recently intimated. A silky and creative midfielder, but one who has a tendency to lose his head, Hannibal might be able to provide the extra injection of craft often missing from United's midfield.

WINGERS

Kayky, 18, Brazilian – Manchester City

There's every chance Kayky and Angelo could be challenging each other for a spot in the senior Brazil team one day. Now at Manchester City after joining from Fluminense in a deal apparently worth an initial £8.4million, Kayky's development is going to be fascinating to watch. With Flu, the talented winger became the club's youngest player and goalscorer in the Libertadores before making the switch to England in pre-season. He was on the bench for the Boxing Day win over Leicester City, and with COVID-19 cases proving an issue across the Premier League, there's every chance we may see a bit more of Kayky in the near future.

Angelo Gabriel, 17, Brazilian – Santos

Every year it seems there's a new Brazilian teenager causing a stir and subsequently being linked with a big move to Europe – the latest is Angelo Gabriel. The newest 'new Neymar', Angelo is actually a left-footed right winger but the similarities in style of play are at least comparable in that he's a good dribbler, skilful and likes to cut inside off the flank. Angelo's made the jump up to the first team a little earlier than Neymar, though – he only turned 17 in December but already has 51 first-team appearances to his name. In April, he became the Copa Libertadores' youngest-ever scorer (16 years, 105 days old) and was also the only under-17 player to feature in the 2021 Brasileirao.

Alan Velasco, 19, Argentinian – Independiente

Showing quality in Argentina's domestic league isn't always a guarantee of future greatness, but doing well as a tricky youngster does speak to a certain degree of bravery and resilience given the brutal reputation of the top flight. Velasco is among the league's most-promising young players, a skilful, quick and dangerous left winger. His 62 chances created this season is the fifth most in the division, while no player can better his 198 dribbles completed. Could he be a wildcard choice for Argentina at the World Cup? Don't rule it out.

Rayan Cherki, 18, French – Lyon

It feels like 2022 could be a massive year for Cherki. The versatile attacker is still nowhere near being a regular at Lyon, despite many feeling Peter Bosz's appointment might prove a boost to the teenager – after all, he played an important role in developing Kai Havertz and Florian Wirtz. Yet, the raw ability is undoubtedly there for Cherki – whether he'll be able to harness that properly at Lyon remains to be seen, with suggestions growing that he might seek a move away in the next year.

FORWARDS

Yuri Alberto, 20, Brazilian – Internacional

Yuri Alberto looks likely to be 'one who got away' for Santos. He left for Internacional in 2020 after initially showing promise at Vila Belmiro and has been a shrewd acquisition, scoring 22 times in 56 Brasileirao appearances, the most of any player currently 24 or younger. His 12 in the 2021 season was only bettered by four players and he scored more hat-tricks than anyone else (three) during the calendar year – one of those being netted in the late-finishing 2020 campaign.

Mohamed-Ali Cho, 17, French – Angers

A dynamic, exciting forward who is most comfortable out wide at the moment, Cho may only be 17 but he already has 39 Ligue 1 appearances under his belt. Where France seem to have lost out to England with Green, Les Bleus look to be winning the battle for Cho, who spent five years at Everton until 2020. Now a France Under-21 international, Cho is the youngest player to have scored in Ligue 1 this season having netted against Rennes back in August when he was aged 17 years and 222 days.

Ricardo Pepi, 18, American – FC Dallas

Yes, another American. While Clark may not make it into the United States' World Cup squad, Pepi almost certainly will. A very well-rounded striker who is tall, agile and hard-working, Pepi has also – perhaps most importantly – proven an able finisher, with his 13 MLS goals in the 2021 season being the joint-most ever managed by a teenager in the competition. Similarly, he's also the youngest player to ever score in consecutive World Cup qualifiers for the USA. He has a long-term contract at Dallas, but no one would be surprised to see him leave for Europe in 2022, with Germany a likely destination. Expect him to fetch the largest ever fee for an American leaving MLS.

Matias Arezo, 19, Uruguayan – River Plate (URU)

Uruguay has produced some truly great strikers down the years. After more of a barren spell in that regard since Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez came through, there is once again a cause for optimism with Darwin Nunez, Agustin Alvarez and, arguably chief among them, Arezo. He scored 13 times in 35 Uruguayan Primera appearances last term – he surpassed that haul with 15 from six fewer appearances in 2021. For comparison's sake, Suarez got 10 in 27 in his first full season in the division with Nacional, while Cavani recorded nine in 25 appearances for Danubio before moving to Europe. A well-built striker, he's definitely one to watch ahead of the World Cup – assuming Uruguay get there.

Julian Alvarez, 21, Argentinian – River Plate

A sensational last couple of months in 2021 elevated Alvarez to a new level, one which has seen him mentioned regularly in transfer gossip columns – United are apparently especially keen. The striker, now an Argentina international, scored a total of 24 club goals across 2021, while also setting up a further 12 in the league, showing both his ability to finish chances and create them. A move abroad seems highly probable – where that takes him and how he does will be intriguing to watch, particularly ahead of the World Cup.

Paul Pogba's club future continues to be a major topic of speculation.

The 28-year-old is into the final year of his Manchester United contract.

Pogba has flirted with the idea of an extension but has been stalling on a decision.

 

TOP STORY – REAL AND PSG HOME IN ON POGBA

Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain are both ready to ramp up the race to sign Paul Pogba from Manchester United, claims Marca.

Pogba is running down his United contract, meaning he will be a free agent in mid-2022.

Real and PSG will rekindle their interest after new United interim manager Ralf Rangnick said Pogba should not need to be convinced to stay.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United forward Edinson Cavani has offered his services to Juventus, according to Calciomercato. The Uruguayan veteran has also been linked with Barcelona.

- Barcelona are plotting moves for Chelsea's trio Cesar Azpilicueta, Christian Pulisic and Antonio Rudiger, reports Mundo Deportivo.

- Milan are circling to sign Liverpool's super-sub Divock Origi as they seek a long-term replacement for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, claims Tuttomercato. Atalanta are also interested.

- Calciomercato reports that Roma are considering a move for Spezia midfielder Jiulio Maggiore. The 23-year-old is out of contract in 2023 and valued at €8m (£6.8m).

- Roma are also interested in a move for Norwich City's Max Aarons, according to Corriere dello Sport. Tottenham and Everton are also in the race.

- Lyon are interested in a move for Villarreal's Arnaut Danjuma, claims Todofichajes. Manchester United and Barcelona are also tracking the ex-Bournemouth winger.

Rangers were unable to extend Giovanni van Bronckhorst's 100 per cent winning start as they drew 1-1 away to Lyon in the Europa League.

The Gers had won all of their first four matches under the Dutchman, including the 2-0 victory over Sparta Prague that sealed second place in Group A and ultimately rendered Thursday's trip to France a dead rubber.

For a time, Rangers looked like they might cause a shock as Scott Wright's deflected strike put them in front, only for a Calvin Bassey own goal to restore parity early in the second period.

Lyon were superior for the remainder of the match but it finished level, with Les Gones already guaranteed a spot in the round of 16 and Rangers set to be pitted against one of the third-placed Champions League sides in the play-off round.

While Lyon initially settled better, the visitors grew into the contest and went close to an opener in the 24th minute as Kemar Roofe's early effort from out wide caught Julian Pollersbeck off his line but only clipped the outside of the post.

Pollersbeck was not so fortunate just before half-time, however, with Wright seeing his 20-yard effort deflected into the net after brilliant play by Glen Kamara to set the chance up with a cut-back.

Another freak deflection ensured Lyon were level soon after the restart, with Rayan Cherki drilling across goal and Bassey prodding into his own net.

Tinotenda Kadewere and Islam Slimani both spurned reasonable chances for the hosts, who piled the pressure on at the end, but the stalemate was of no concern to either side.

What does it mean? Positives for Van Bronckhorst

It can be difficult to draw meaningful conclusions from low-stakes contests such as this, but Van Bronckhorst should be happy with Rangers' first-half display at the least.

Ryan Kent and Kemar Roofe both looked bright and at no point did they look overawed against a decent team.

They took their foot off the gas in the second half, though Rangers still coped fairly well with Lyon.

Picture perfect from Kamara

He may have only played the first half, but Rangers midfielder Kamara was effective during his time on the pitch, playing two key passes and getting the assist for Wright. No other player on the pitch managed to create more chances than him over the course of the full 90 minutes.

Disappointment for Dembele

Former Celtic striker Moussa Dembele will have been eager to impress, for obvious reasons, but it was not his night. He made a mess of an early opportunity and that proved to be his only shot of the game before being withdrawn 14 minutes from time.

What's next?

Rangers will find out their next Europa League opponents in the play-off draw on Monday – Lyon will not be pulled out of the hat until next February when the draw for the last-16 takes place.

Lyon will have to play home games without fans in attendance until at least December 8 as a result of the crowd trouble that saw their Ligue 1 fixture with Marseille postponed.

Sunday's match at Groupama Stadium was halted after Marseille star Dimitri Payet was hit by a bottle hurled by a spectator. 

The former West Ham playmaker was preparing to take a corner amid a hostile atmosphere when he was struck on the side of the head by a plastic bottle full of liquid.

Payet went to ground and required treatment, with players taken from the field at the direction of referee Ruddy Buquet.

Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas later apologised to Payet and confirmed a spectator had been arrested in connection with the incident.

A statement from the Ligue de Football Professionnel said Lyon's next home match versus Reims will be played without fans, with a disciplinary committee scheduled to announce any further punishment and the outcome of the game versus Marseille on December 8.

Among possible further sanctions is a points deduction, with Nice having been docked two, one of which was suspended, following crowd trouble at their game against Marseille this season.

French football has been plagued by a series of incidents this term, starting from the opening weekend when Marseille midfielder Valentin Rongier was struck by a bottle when celebrating a goal scored by Payet against Montpellier.

Payet was also targeted in late August when Nice fans hurled bottles onto the pitch. Payet threw a bottle back into the stands, which led to a pitch invasion from Nice ultras. On that occasion, the game was abandoned and replayed behind closes doors at Troyes' neutral ground in October, with Nice served their points penalty.

Last month, Saint-Etienne and Angers saw their fixture delayed by an hour after angry supporters hurled flares onto the pitch and demanded the resignation of Saint-Etienne boss Claude Puel. There was also trouble at Saint-Etienne's game against Lyon, while the meeting between Lens and Lille in September was held up after rival fans clashed at half-time.

French sports minister Roxana Maracineanu told France Info radio: "They have to come to an agreement, this kind of problem is for the league to solve. 

"I think that everyone must understand that it is the survival of French [football] that is at stake."

Lyon's Ligue 1 home match against Marseille was abandoned after Dimitri Payet was hit by a bottle hurled by a spectator, heaping fresh embarrassment on the French game.

Former West Ham playmaker Payet was preparing to take a corner amid a hostile atmosphere when he was struck on the side of the head by a plastic bottle full of liquid.

He immediately went to ground and needed treatment, prompting referee Ruddy Buquet to take the players off the pitch. Payet left the field with an ice pack pressed to the side of his head.

Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas later said a spectator had been arrested in connection with the bottle throwing, and offered an apology to Payet.

The Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) said its disciplinary chiefs would meet on Monday, describing the rash of violent incidents in Ligue 1 as acts that are "destroying the image of the championship in France and internationally".

Lyon could face a points deduction over the incident, with Nice having been docked two points, one of which was suspended, after crowd trouble at their game against Marseille earlier this season.

The LFP said it "strongly condemns the violent aggression" that Payet suffered. "Dimitri Payet was also the target of discriminatory insults," the LFP said.

It added a firm warning that fan misconduct will lead to sanctions, stating: "Despite the firmness of the decisions of the disciplinary commission of the LFP since the start of the season [withdrawal of points, closed-door match, closure of the stand] and the work carried out with the government authorities to more effectively punish violent individuals in the stadiums, these new serious incidents are a reminder that the safety of the matches is the responsibility of the home club and the local authorities, who are ultimately responsible for resuming or definitively stopping the match."

There was a bizarre sideshow to the serious business of the assault on Payet, as the LFP and local authorities took contrasting views on what happened after the players were hauled off the pitch.

The LFP claimed a decision had been taken by the local Rhone prefecture to resume the game, but those officials hit out at the league authorities and said they had made no such declaration, stressing that Buquet decided it should start again before changing his mind.

Fans stayed inside the Groupama Stadium long after the incident occurred, in the hope of a resumption that never came, even though at one point it looked like doing so when the players returned to the pitch to warm up. 

The Rhone local government officials said in a statement on Twitter that a "crisis meeting" had taken place, attended by their representatives and others, including match officials and presidents of both clubs, at which referee Buquet decided the match should resume.

The Rhone officials issued a subsequent statement taking issue with the LFP take, describing it as "FALSE", adding: "The referee then invites the authorities and club presidents to his dressing room to say that he has changed his mind and that he is stopping the match."

There have been a number of major crowd trouble incidents in French football this season, starting from the opening weekend when Marseille midfielder Valentin Rongier was hit by a bottle while celebrating a goal that Payet scored against Montpellier.

Marseille and Payet were on the receiving end later in August after Nice fans hurled bottles onto the pitch. Payet was struck and hurled the bottle back into the stand, sparking a pitch invasion by Nice ultras. That match was abandoned and replayed behind closed doors at Troyes' neutral ground in October, with Nice served with their points penalty.

Saint-Etienne and Angers were delayed by an hour in starting their October 22 game after angry fans hurled flares onto the pitch and demanded Claude Puel quit as Saint-Etienne boss. There was also trouble at Saint-Etienne's game against Lyon, while the clash between Lens and Lille in September was held up after rival fans clashed at half-time.

Dimitri Payet was hit by a bottle thrown from the crowd early in Lyon's home game with Marseille, causing Sunday's big Ligue 1 clash to be suspended.

Former West Ham playmaker Payet was preparing to take a corner amid a hostile atmosphere when he was struck on the side of the head by a bottle full of liquid.

He immediately went to ground and needed treatment, prompting referee Ruddy Buquet to take the players off the pitch.

Payet left the pitch with an ice pack pressed to the side of his head.

There have been a number of major crowd trouble incidents in French football this season, starting from the opening weekend when Marseille midfielder Valentin Rongier was hit by a bottle while celebrating a goal that Payet scored against Montpellier.

Marseille and Payet were on the receiving end later in August after Nice fans hurled bottles onto the pitch. Payet was struck and hurled the bottle back into the stand, sparking a pitch invasion by Nice ultras. That match was abandoned and replayed behind closed doors at Troyes' neutral ground in October.

It remained to be seen whether Sunday night's game would continue, with the players still off the pitch more than half an hour after Payet was hit.

Switzerland have praised Xherdan Shaqiri for his behaviour after an intruder appeared in a television interview and draped the Lyon star in a provocative jacket.

Shaqiri was conducting post-match media duties on the pitch following his side's 2-0 win over Northern Ireland in World Cup qualifying in Geneva.

A man approached the former Liverpool player and put a coat around his shoulders that bore the symbol of the UCK, or Kosovo Liberation Army, a militia that fought for Kosovan independence from Yugoslavia and Serbia.

Shaqiri, who is of Kosovo-Albanian descent, promptly removed the garment and placed it out of sight of the camera before continuing his interview.

The incident caused uproar in Serbia, with newspaper Kurir describing it as a "scandalous scene" and calling on UEFA to act.

In a statement posted on Twitter on Sunday, the Swiss Football Association (SFV) said: "It is unacceptable that people want to use football stadia, and in this case a player's interview after a match, for political propaganda purposes.

"Xherdan Shaqiri reacted in an exemplary manner, stayed calm and did not react.

"The man was questioned by police and an immediate stadium ban was imposed on him."

Shaqiri and team-mate Granit Xhaka were fined 10,000 Swiss francs at the 2018 World Cup after celebrating goals in a 2-1 win over Serbia by making a double-headed eagle gesture.

FIFA considered the celebration, which symbolised the emblem on the Albanian flag, to be "unsporting behaviour".

Neymar revelled in Paris Saint-Germain's late victory against Lyon as the Ligue 1 giants preserved their perfect start to the season.

Lionel Messi made his home debut in PSG's 2-1 win over Lyon, who succumbed to Mauro Icardi's 93rd-minute goal on Sunday.

Neymar had restored parity with his 66th-minute penalty, cancelling out Lucas Paqueta's second-half opener, before Icardi came off the bench to secure PSG's sixth league win from six matches.

PSG star Neymar has scored 71 per cent of his Ligue 1 goals in 2021 from the penalty spot – the highest ratio among all players with five-plus goals in the top-flight over the period.

Since his first season with PSG in 2017-18, this is the sixth time the Brazilian won and scored a penalty in the same Ligue 1 game, more than any other player over the period.

"It was a difficult game! We knew we were facing a great team," Neymar said post-game.

"It’s always hard to chase after the score when you're behind, have to run twice as much but everyone deserves congratulations for the sacrifices they made.

"Really happy to come back with a win at a packed Parc des Princes in front of our supporters. I'm really pleased."

PSG have won their first six Ligue 1 games of a season for the third time after 2017-18 and 2018-19. In the 21st century, only Marseille did that (in 2012-13) among all other top-flight sides.

Mauricio Pochettino's PSG have won each of their last six home games in Ligue 1, their longest streak in the top-flight under the same head coach since Thomas Tuchel's first 15 games at Parc des Princes in the league between August 2018 and March 2019.

Mauricio Pochettino insisted there are "no issues" with Lionel Messi after the Paris Saint-Germain superstar's reaction to being substituted during Sunday's 2-1 win over Ligue 1 rivals Lyon.

Messi had a puzzled look on his face as he walked past PSG head coach Pochettino, having been replaced by full-back Achraf Hakimi in the 76th minute of the league clash.

Pochettino and Messi briefly exchanged words before the latter, who was making his home debut at the Parc des Princes following his blockbuster arrival from Barcelona, sat on the bench next to surprised team-mates.

Messi was involved in six shots (four attempts, two chances created) against Lyon and only Kylian Mbappe against Clermont (seven) has managed better in a league game so far this season for PSG.

A six-time Ballon d'Or winner, Messi also had 65 touches and made 48 passes with an accuracy of 83.3 per cent.

Pochettino told a post-match media conference: "I think everyone knows that we have many great players, with a 35-man squad. 

"We have to make choices, within the matchday squad and then during the game, keeping in mind what's best for the team and every player. 

"Sometimes the decisions are positive, or not, but that's what managers are there to do on the sidelines, to make decisions. It can please people or not. 

"I asked him how he was and he said he was fine, no issues."

PSG secured victory over Lyon following a dramatic injury-time header from substitute Mauro Icardi from Mbappe's cross after Neymar's penalty had earlier cancelled out Lucas Paqueta's opening goal.

Pochettino's PSG are now five points clear of Marseille at the top of Ligue 1 after six wins from six games.

PSG have achieved a flawless start from their first six games for the third time after 2017-18 and 2018-19 – on both those occasions they went on to be crowned champions.

"It's very positive for us," Pochettino said of their start to the Ligue 1 campaign. "After the difficult game [against Club Brugge in the Champions League], this was important for us. Lyon are a very good team that play well. 

"We conceded that goal in the second half. The team needed to show some character. 

"We're in a period where we're trying a lot of things. We have to work on it in training, but it's difficult because we have a game every three days, and the priority is that the players recover. 

"We can only do video sessions. It's not an excuse, we need to improve."

Lionel Messi's home debut for Paris Saint-Germain ended in victory, the Ligue 1 leaders rallying for a 2-1 win over Lyon thanks to Neymar's penalty and a late goal from Mauro Icardi. 

Lyon took the lead nine minutes after the break when Karl Toko Ekambi's teasing cross was met by a first-time finish from Lucas Paqueta. 

PSG got themselves back on level terms with a 66th-minute penalty, Neymar converting from the spot after he was deemed to have been fouled in the box by Malo Gusto. 

Substitute Icardi then popped up in added time at Parc des Princes to secure the points for the home side with a brilliant header from Kylian Mbappe's cross. 

In a fervent atmosphere generated by the PSG supporters – the air thick with smoke from pyrotechnics prior to kick-off – Messi's early touches were roared by the home fans. 

His first real chance came with an angled run into the area when unchecked and he was picked out by Ander Herrera, but Jason Denayer was able to get in a vital block. 

PSG needed a goal-line header from Herrera moments later to keep out a fierce drive from Gusto as Lyon threatened at the other end. 

Messi had his head in his hands just after the half-hour mark when he latched on to a backheel from Neymar inside the box, only for goalkeeper Anthony Lopes to save his clipped effort with his legs. 

The Argentina international then struck the corner of the crossbar with a curling free-kick shortly afterwards as Lopes stood on his line motionless.  

However, it was Lyon who went ahead early in the second half when Paqueta found space between Nuno Mendes and Marquinhos to crisply strike the ball beyond Gianluigi Donnarumma. 

Neymar went down after he tussled with Gusto inside the area and then confidently sent Lopes the wrong way from the resulting penalty kick to level the score. 

Messi saw an angled drive whistle just past the post before being replaced by Achraf Hakimi with 14 minutes left, but it was another sub in Icardi who made the biggest impact, nodding in during the dying moments. 

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