PARIS: Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel admitted Neymar’s latest lavish birthday celebrations were a “distraction” at a key time in the season after the Brazilian helped the Ligue 1 leaders to a 5-0 win over nine-man Montpellier on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
Neymar, with his hair dyed pink, shook off an injury scare and raged with the match officials while Pablo Sarabia, Angel Di Maria, Kylian Mbappe and Layvin Kurzawa all scored along with a Daniel Congre own goal as PSG went 13 points clear of Marseille at the top of the table.
On Sunday, the Brazilian is set to host a lavish party for his 28th birthday at a Parisian nightclub, despite his team playing again on Tuesday against Nantes.
“It’s a distraction, that’s clear,” said Tuchel. “I always want to protect my players, and if there are difficult things to talk about I prefer to say them internally.
“These are distractions, and they give the impression we are not serious, not professional. But I don’t really want to talk about it because then these things become big issues.”
Neymar warmed up with a shirt bearing the name of Kobe Bryant and the number 24 of the basketball star who was killed in a helicopter crash last weekend.
While Neymar didn’t score, having to settle just for one assist, he produced his usual tricks, provoked the opposition, and required lengthy treatment at the end of the first half after appearing to hurt his ribs as he grappled for the ball with Montpellier’s Arnaud Souquet.
Unhappy with the some of the treatment reserved for him, Neymar was booked for dissent in the first half and was then caught by television cameras angrily remonstrating in Portuguese with the fourth official in the tunnel at half-time.
Mbappe anger at substitution
Tuchel was also forced to answer questions about Mbappe’s angry reaction to being taken off midway through the second half, as Edinson Cavani came on for a first appearance since a January move to Atletico Madrid fell through.
“It doesn’t look good, but we are not the only club where players react like that,” the coach said.
“This team shows how professional and focused they are every day, but this gives the impression it’s not always like that and I’m sad because it’s not necessary.
“I explained to him why he came off and that will be that. I always make decisions for sporting reasons. This is football, not tennis, and you have to respect everyone.”
Sarabia was selected ahead of Mauro Icardi and Cavani to start with Mbappe up front, and the former Real Madrid player curled home a fine opener from 22 yards in the eighth minute for his 10th goal of the season.
Montpellier’s hopes of getting back into the game were then as good as over when goalkeeper Dimitry Bertaud was sent off in the 17th minute for coming out of his box to stop Mbappe bearing down on goal, only to block the ball with his arm and receive a straight red.
On came young debutant goalkeeper Matis Carvalho and he had to pick the ball out of his net twice before the interval.
Di Maria lifted the ball over him and in to make it 2-0 in the 41st minute, and shortly afterwards Teji Savanier’s attempt to clear a Di Maria corner rebounded off the face of defender Congre and in.
After Neymar cooled down at the break, he set up Mbappe to round Carvalho and score his 14th league goal of the season.
Kurzawa drilled in the fifth in the 65th minute, and the visitors were reduced to nine men late on as substitute Joris Chotard saw two quick yellow cards.
Marseille go to Bordeaux on Sunday looking for a first win there in 43 years, while Rennes strengthened their grip on third by scoring twice in injury time to claim a 3-2 win over Nantes on Friday.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Monaco’s problems continued as they had two men sent off in the first half and lost 3-1 at Nimes. They remain 13th. Victor Osimhen’s late penalty gave Lille a 2-1 victory at Strasbourg to leave them fourth.