Match Recap: AS Monaco vs. Paris Saint-Germain

Journalists around the world were spoilt for headline choice as Paris Saint-Germain emphatically defeated their Ligue 1 rivals at the Stade Louis II, taking it to four consecutive wins and clean sheets for the new season.

It was a vintage performance, both through Edinson Cavani’s return to form and for the sparkling debut of PSG’s newest toy, Angel Di Maria. El Fideo (the noodle), as he is affectionately known, has been a long-term target of Laurent Blanc’s and the Frenchman must feel incredibly vindicated to finally be able to utilize him. I must say, despite doubting the purchase after a middling season in Manchester—not to mention potentially benching fan favorite Lucas Moura—Di Maria added an incredible dimension to the team’s play in his late cameo, nearly teeing up a goal with his first pass and later sending Ezequiel Lavezzi clear through on goal for the third. Combined with Zlatan Ibrahimovic playing deep, Marco Verratti in midfield and the potential addition of Javier Pastore, one shudders to imagine the service that a full-strength Parisian team could offer.

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All that service needs an outlet, and for the first 45 minutes, Cavani did very little to reinforce the belief that he can be that outlet. Looking rusty and aimless, the Uruguayan scuffed any shots that he did actually take and couldn’t get on the end of many crosses, perhaps in part due to his extreme work-rate.  Lucas very much outshone him initially terms of offensive contribution, although the Brazilian international was unable to put away the game’s first clear-cut opportunity. Though perhaps at the expense of Lucas Moura, who fizzled out after the break and was replaced by Di Maria in the 66th minute, Cavani emerged in the second half with renewed purpose and solid positioning. El Matador’s meaty South American forehead opened PSG’s account after a great cross from Matuidi, and he further proved his credentials with a rare Henry-esque finish past Danijel Subasic.

It was a peach of a ball from Ibrahimovic to set up the brace, with the big Swede enjoying a fantastic game behind Cavani. The chemistry between the two forwards is much more clearly defined than it has been in previous seasons, particularly now that the Uruguayan is allowed to roam into his preferred central role. It’s unsurprising that Cavani has scored more alongside Ibra than by playing alone; Cavani, when left alone in the middle, doesn’t have the same awareness to drop back and let the likes of Matuidi run into the space left behind. With the addition of Di Maria especially, the fluidity between all three forwards became far too much for the Monegasque defense to cope with: both the second and third goals are the result of genius balls to players that have completely evaded their marker.

The midfield wasn’t as much the focus, with the tried-and-tested trio of Motta, Matuidi, and Verratti emphasizing their usual control, particularly in the second half as Monaco’s pressure waned. Motta in particular had a very solid return to the side, a bright performance given his recent contract renewal, and curiously moved into Verratti’s centre-midfield position after the introduction of Marquinhos who took his place in front of David Luiz and Thiago Silva.

As important as the goals were, just as crucial is the zero on the other end of the scoreline; despite the arguably reduced importance of the match after the departures of key players Layvin Kurzawa and Aymen Abdennour, Monaco were still nothing to scoff at, and threatened multiple times during the match, particularly through El Sharaawy who forced a fine save out of Trapp. O Monstro and Luiz nevertheless held fast at the back, taking it to four consecutive clean sheets for the duo. Maxwell had another solid game, but Aurier really shone through on the right-hand side. Playing as the only wide outlet – again drawing great comparisons to Dani Alves – until the introduction of Di Maria, he, like Matuidi, bombed into space at every opportunity and could count himself a little unlucky to not have at least one assist. When joined by Layvin Kurzawa on the left, the capital club could have one of the best young full-back duos in world football.

The result is a satisfying one, with PSG having broken a seven-year winless run over the club from the principality. There are few sterner tests domestically than the Stade Louis II, and with a victory already recorded over Lyon in the pre-season Trophee des Champions, PSG look better than ever, and will be looking to build on their title-winning form with an even greater Champions’ League run.

Tags Angel Di Maria AS Monaco Edinson Cavani Ligue 1 Lucas Moura Thiago Motta Zlatan Ibrahimovic
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