Paris: After being involved in one of the most comical moments in European football last season, striker Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting distinguished himself with a fine goal and scored a second as Paris St-Germain beat Toulouse 4-0 in the French league on Sunday.
The resounding win came at a price, however, as PSG forwards Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe, clutching the back of his left leg and grimacing, limped off.
PSG coach Thomas Tuchel said the players will have tests to determine the extent of their injuries.
Despite being match fit, record signing Neymar remains unavailable as he seeks to push through a move away from the club — a situation which appears increasingly exasperating for Tuchel.
“Today was the occasion [for him to play] ... it’s certain he could have played today,” Tuchel said in French on Canal Plus television. “It’s not a clear situation and it should be clear.”
Tuchel then went as far as to suggest he has little or no say as to whether Neymar can play against Metz on Friday — just days before the transfer window shuts.
It was Choupo-Moting, then, who replaced Cavani in the 13th minute and he will not enjoy many nights like this.
Receiving a pass from Angel Di Maria, the Cameroon striker burst into the penalty area, spun around with one touch to move inside two defenders and drilled the ball into the bottom left corner.
It was only his fourth goal in 23 league games since a surprise move from unheralded English side Stoke City last season.
In April, Choupo-Moting was widely mocked on social networks for an extraordinary passage of play in a 2-2 home draw against Strasbourg. Amid disbelieving looks from teammates, he somehow prevented a goal for his team despite the ball being about to cross the goal-line, gently nudging the ball onto the post before it was cleared by defenders.
He was only on the field on Sunday night due to an injury to Cavani, who limped off with what appeared to be a leg muscle injury. Midway through the second period, Mbappe left the field after appearing to hurt his hamstring.
After a first half in which Mbappe missed good chances, Choupo-Moting’s opener was a welcome breakthrough. Five minutes later, it was 2-0 when Toulouse defender Mathieu Goncalves turned Pablo Sarabia’s cross into his own net.
Goncalves was harshly judged to have conceded a penalty soon after, slipping over in the area and powerless to stop Sarabia’s cross hitting his left arm. Referee Jerome Brisard still gave it, despite a video review. With Cavani injured and Neymar absent, Di Maria took the spot kick and saw his effort well saved by goalkeeper Baptiste Reynet.
Choupo-Moting confidently drove home a cross from left back Juan Bernat before Brazil defender Marquinhos headed in Di Maria’s corner from the left late on for the fourth goal as PSG climbed up to third place with six points — three points behind leader Rennes.
Lyon can move back top on goal difference with a win at Montpellier on Tuesday.
Elsewhere, Rennes won 2-0 at Strasbourg.
Confidence was high after last Sunday’s 2-1 home win against PSG, and goals from midfielder Clement Grenier in the first half and powerful centre-forward M’Baye Niang soon after the break made it nine points from three games.
Monaco, meanwhile, are still seeking their first win after drawing 2-2 at home to Nimes.