Neymar scored four goals and set up two in a dazzling performance as Paris Saint-Germain beat Dijon 8-0 on Wednesday, yet still the Brazil star left the field bitterly shaking his head in disappointment.
Perhaps it was hearing some fans jeering him when he refused to let striker Edinson Cavani take a late penalty. Runaway league leader PSG was already 7-0 up and Cavani needed one goal to become PSG’s outright all-time leading scorer.
It was the perfect moment to show generosity but — perhaps because the pair had previously clashed over a penalty — Neymar was having none of it.
Instead, with some fans chanting “Cavani, Cavani,” he jealously guarded the ball as Cavani gingerly approached, and then totally blanked him. Coolly, he sent goalkeper Baptiste Reynet the wrong way.
The incident in September — amusingly known as Penalty-gate — saw Cavani refusing to let Neymar take a penalty and then missing . It still seems to linger.
At the end, Neymar took the match ball from the referee — players can keep it after a hat trick — but looked downcast as he trudged off the field at Parc des Princes.
After shaking his head, he even palmed off his Man of the Match award to a PSG staff member as he walked hurriedly back to the dressing room, having not stopped for waiting television reporters.
“He was a bit bitter, maybe. A lot of players would have reacted the same way,” PSG teammate Thomas Meunier said. “When you get whistled after scoring four goals and providing two assists, it’s a bit ungrateful by the supporters.”
Neymar’s other goals were a free kick in the 42nd, an assured finish from inside the area in the 57th, and a fine run and shot from just outside of it in the 73rd.
“We knew we would suffer, but not as much as this,” Dijon midfielder Jordan Marie said.
The pick of Neymar’s goals was a superb first-half free kick which flew into the top right corner before Reynet moved. The Brazil star set up PSG’s second goal for Angel Di Maria and the seventh for Kylian Mbappe.
He earned the free kick from which he scored, too, getting chopped down following a mazy run in the 42nd minute. Neymar has scored 15 goals in 15 league games since joining for a world record 222 million euros ($262 million) from Barcelona this summer.
“Whenever he gets on the ball, the opponents have a real sense of fear,” Meunier said.
Di Maria signaled his fine return to form with the opening two goals — the first a magnificent curling strike from the left of the area into the top right corner — and then set up Cavani’s header to make it 3-0.
Cavani moved level with Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the club’s leading scorer with 156 goals in 226 games, since joining from Napoli in the summer of 2013 for a then-club record of 64 million euros ($76 million).
By comparison, Ibrahimovic scored his in 180 games. He left after the 2015-16 season, after which Cavani came into his own — having often been pushed out wide right to accommodate the Swedish star.
PSG is 11 points clear of second-place Lyon at the top. Marseille is 12 behind while defending champion Monaco trails by 13 in fourth spot. They seem to be already fighting for second place.
PSG’s goal difference of + 52 is almost double Lyon’s and they are flowing from everywhere — with Di Maria netting five in his last four games.
It was PSG’s record home win, although it won 9-0 away to Troyes two seasons ago.
“We’re ashamed of what we did tonight,” Dijon coach Olivier Dall’Oglio said. “There was no fight.”
Lyon faces a tall order keeping Neymar quiet when PSG visits on Sunday.
FEKIR IN FORM
Nabil Fekir’s 15th goal of the season helped Lyon win 2-0 win away to Guingamp.
He pounced in the 26th minute with a low shot from Maxwell Cornet’s pass. The roaming forward is pushing to be included in France’s World Cup squad later this year.
Houssem Aouar, one of the rising stars in the French league, sealed the win in the 58th with a composed finish.
Fifth-place Nantes drew 1-1 away to struggling Toulouse after conceding a penalty five minutes into injury time.
Montpellier missed the chance to climb up to seventh after drawing 1-1 away to Amiens.
Ninth-place Rennes grabbed two late goals to win 2-1 away to Lille.
Angers moved out of the relegation zone with a 3-1 home win against Troyes, which dropped into the bottom three.
Metz remains in last place but strikers Emmanuel Riviere and Nolan Roux are finding form. They scored against their former side Saint-Etienne in a 3-0 home win.