For all the Italian heritage that New Jersey’s natives claim, most of the support tonight at Red Bull Arena was Parisian. Hardly a packed stadium, but the shouts of “Paris, Paris, Paris” were just about the only crowd noise the microphones picked up and neutrals and supporters alike were on the edge of their seats every time Zlatan Ibrahimovic touched the ball.
Though it’s nice to see the big Swede back on the pitch, and he did net the third goal thanks to a brilliant Lucas Moura cross, Ibrahimovic treated the friendly for what it was. With none of the stakes that the youth team had last Saturday against Benfica, the first-team-infused squad played a dreary opening 20 minutes. Ibrahimovic himself could often be found drifting behind the midfield, receiving the ball in his own half; Zlatan is known for dropping back, but it’s rare to see him so deep, so often, and it could be a signal that he may be moving into a more dedicated midfield role later on this season. Near the end of the first half, Ibrahimovic brought himself further forward and played a part in Blaise Matuidi’s opener.
Matuidi, the official Man of the Match tonight, complimented his usual stamina and defensive work with a gorgeous pass to put Jean-Kévin Augustin clear through on goal—and what a finish from the youngster!
Remarkable composure from the 18-year-old wonderkid who started on the right wing and cut into the space left behind by Zlatan. Augustin, the International Champions Cup’s new top scorer with 3 and 5 goals total this preseason, played a wonderful game tonight, probably his best yet. It seems certain that we’ll see JKA feature more prominently next season, and if we can develop him to full potential, we may have an honest-to-god star on our hands. He capped off the game with an absolute firecracker from just outside the box (evidently against his own keeper according to the commentator):
The second half had its share of excitement with one screamer from Joaquin immediately after coming on as a substitute for Fiorentina and one (rightfully) disallowed goal for the Italians. But after a nervy opening PSG regained control. The source of that stability came from an incredibly surprising source—Benjamin Stambouli! I don’t think anyone expected much from the new depth signing, considering how brief his time with the team has been, but he was absolutely brilliant in midfield. Aside from a few stray fouls, he won the ball exceptionally well up and down the pitch and made sure we didn’t suffer from Matuidi’s exit. Hervin Ongenda, the 20-year-old forward, had a very quiet game while deployed in midfield, playing it extremely cautious, and he played an excellent contrast to Stambouli’s enthusiastic ball-winning attitude.
Being brutally honest, I saw in Stambouli’s half-hour performance the kind of player that Cabaye could only hope to be with Paris, even in peak form. Though it is still the preseason, if today is anything to judge by, Stambouli will prove to be worth every penny we paid for him. Just another positive in a game littered with them.
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