Soccer-Verratti inspires PSG to 4-0 win against Reims

Soccer Football - Ligue 1 - Paris St Germain v Stade de Reims - Parc des Princes, Paris, France - January 23, 2022 Paris St Germain's Marco Verratti in action REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

PARIS (Reuters) - Paris St Germain continued their march towards the Ligue 1 title as Marco Verratti inspired them to a 4-0 home victory against Stade de Reims on Sunday and Lionel Messi made his first appearance of the year.

Italy midfielder Verratti found the back of the net for PSG for the first time since 2019, while Sergio Ramos scored his first goal for the capital side. Wout Faes scored an own goal, and Danilo Pereira added another to put PSG on 53 points from 22 matches.

They lead Nice, who beat Metz 2-0 away earlier on Sunday, by 11 points with Olympique de Marseille in third place two points further adrift but with a game in hand.

The defeat left Reims, who got off to a promising start at the Parc des Princes but faded after the opener, in 14th place on 24 points.

With Messi on the bench and back in the squad for the first time this year, having contracted COVID-19 during the break, PSG started with Kylian Mbappe, Mauro Icardi and Angel Di Maria up front.

Mbappe had two clear chances after half an hour but it was Verratti who broke the deadlock just before halftime when he whipped a low shot past Predrag Rajkovic.

It then became easier for the hosts and Ramos doubled the advantage on 63 minutes from close range after Pereira's header had been deflected into the Spaniard's path by Andreaw Gravillon.

Verratti's shot from Messi's pass was then deflected by Faes into his own goal shortly after the Argentine came on to replace Di Maria in the 64th minute.

Pereira wrapped it up in the 76th when his powerful shot took a deflection before sailing past Rajkovic.

Elsewhere, Racing Strasbourg lost ground in the race for a top-three spot when they lost 4-3 at Girondins de Bordeaux who prevailed thanks to a hat-trick by Hwang Ui-Jo.

Strasbourg are fourth on 35 points, five behind Marseille.

Stade Rennais are fifth on 34 points after losing 2-1 at Clermont.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis)

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