PARIS — Neymar showed there was no hangover from his lavish birthday party by scoring the winner as leader Paris Saint-Germain won at Toulouse 1-0 in the French league on Saturday.
Neymar settled a scrappy match with a typical moment of skill midway through the second half. He drifted into the left side of the penalty area and cut past two players before his deflected shot somewhat fortuitously wrong-footed goalkeeper Alban Lafont.
The win kept PSG 12 points ahead of defending champion Monaco, which won at Angers 4-0 and moved up to second place.
Marseille, which drew at Saint-Etienne 2-2 on Friday, was 13 points back in third.
But this was a largely uninspired PSG performance aside from Neymar. He has 19 goals in 18 league games since joining from Barcelona for a world record 222 million euros ($260 million).
Neymar had plenty of spare cash to throw a mega-party last Sunday to celebrate turning 26. To a Paris club, he invited 300 guests — including his teammates, his coach, his club president — and 50 keen partygoers from Brazil.
As a result, coach Unai Emery gave Neymar a rest on a chilly Tuesday when PSG played at Sochaux; and it proved a judicious move as the silky Neymar looked in fine form. He almost added a second goal late on with a brilliant curling shot from 25 meters which bounced off the crossbar.
PSG needs Neymar like this. The club plays Real Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday, in the first leg of the last 16. PSG has a big point to prove after being humiliated 6-1 by Barcelona at the same stage last year — with Neymar PSG’s chief tormentor that night.
“We’re ready. We don’t have the right not to be ready,” PSG midfielder Marco Verratti said. “We’re content because things are going well in the league. “
NO FALCAO, NO PROBLEM
Stevan Jovetic stepped in perfectly for injured top scorer Radamel Falcao, scoring twice in Monaco’s 4-0 win at Angers.
Jovetic was hailed among Europe’s brightest young talents when he made his breakthrough with Fiorentina Serie A, but his career was stalled by injuries.
He has settled in well since joining Monaco from Inter Milan. His first goal after 31 minutes was superbly taken, as he delicately flicked the ball over advancing goalkeeper Ludovic Butelle from a tight angle. He tapped in his second from Thomas Lemar’s cross midway through the second half.
Butelle’s own goal put Monaco ahead in the 12th and center half Andrea Raggi completed the scoring.
Gus Poyet has energized Bordeaux and beating Amiens 3-2 was his third straight win since taking charge.
With the former Tottenham and Chelsea midfielder aggressively barking orders from the touchline, Bordeaux raced 3-0 ahead only to be pegged back in the second half. Poyet’s side moved above Nice — which lost to Dijon 3-2 — and up to seventh place.
Striker Julio Tavares scored twice as Dijon rallied from 2-1 down to win and climb up to 12th spot, while Nice dropped to eighth.
Montpellier’s combination of nicking the odd goal and relying on a secure defense worked again in a 1-0 win at last-place Metz, thanks to striker Giovanni Sio’s goal midway through the first half. Montpellier has conceded 20 goals in 25 games — only PSG has allowed less — and is fifth.
Also, mid-table sides Guingamp and Caen ground out a 0-0 draw.
Fourth-place Lyon can move one point behind Marseille by beating Rennes at home. Also, Nantes takes on Lille and Strasbourg hosts struggling Troyes.