PARIS: Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi both scored twice as Paris Saint-Germain rounded out their Champions League group-stage campaign with a 4-1 thumping of Club Brugge on Tuesday.
Mbappe scored twice in the first seven minutes, the second-fastest double at the start of a game in Champions League history, before setting up Messi to make it 3-0 at half-time.
Mats Rits got one back for the Belgians in the second half but Messi then netted a penalty to make it 4-1 and give PSG a welcome confidence boost in an underwhelming European campaign to date.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side knew before this game that they were heading through to the last 16 in second place in Group A behind Manchester City after losing 2-1 in England last month.
That means a theoretically harder tie against a group winner awaits them in next Monday’s draw, with Liverpool, Ajax, Bayern Munich and Manchester United already potential opponents.
However, with Mbappe on this kind of form and Messi saving his best for Europe, there is still plenty of reason for optimism for Pochettino, who should also have Neymar back from his latest ankle injury by the time the knockout phase begins in February.
Mbappe needed just 73 seconds to open the scoring, following up to finish low into the far corner after Simon Mignolet had saved from Nuno Mendes.
The France World Cup-winning forward netted again in the seventh minute, showing great technique to volley in from Angel Di Maria’s assist for his 11th goal this season.
The only player to score two quicker goals at the start of a Champions League match is Rodrygo, for Real Madrid against Galatasaray in 2019.
Mbappe, who doesn’t turn 23 until later this month, is a player in a hurry and he is already onto 30 Champions League goals in his career -- at the same age Messi had 25 and Cristiano Ronaldo, now the competition’s all-time top scorer, had eight.
It was a stunning burst of pace from Mbappe on the left that led to PSG’s third goal in the 38th minute as he picked out Messi in the middle and the Argentinian advanced to the edge of the box before scoring with a trademark left-foot finish into the corner.
The visitors pulled one back midway through the second half as Noa Lang set up Rits to finish past Gianluigi Donnarumma.
However, with RB Leipzig beating Manchester City 2-1 in the other Group A game, Club Brugge were condemned to finishing bottom and missing out on a consolation Europa League spot.
Messi then made it 4-1 for the Ligue 1 leaders in the 76th minute, converting a penalty he had won himself.
While the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner has managed just one Ligue 1 goal in nine appearances since moving to France in August, he now has five in five Champions League appearances for PSG.
Messi moves onto 125 career goals in the Champions League, a tally bettered only by his old rival Ronaldo, who has 140. - AFP