For those who thought there would be a let-off for Paris Saint-Germain following their mid-week win over Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League, you were pleasantly surprised with what you saw against Olympique Lyonnais on Sunday night.
The match spectacularly ended 1-0 to PSG thanks to a last-gasp goal from Neymar Jr., but before we get to him, the manager and starting XI deserve a lot of praise for the way they approached this fixture. It would have been very easy for them to play with a lack of motivation after they completely dominated Madrid and made them basically quit mid-match. Between both matches, several PSG Talk contributors talked about the need for consistency and that the bar had been set for what we expect this season. It wasn’t a perfect match but considering the circumstances, PSG absolutely performed up to expectations.
Thomas Tuchel tweaked his lineup considerably following the Madrid match. Several regular starters were unavailable (Kylian Mbappé, Mauro Icardi, and Edinson Cavani to name a few). This left Neymar, Angel Di Maria, and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting to carry the attacking load. Di Maria, the hero in that 3-0 win over Madrid, had another stellar performance and seemed to be involved in everything PSG tried to do offensively. Even Choupo-Moting looked sharp at times and linked up well with Neymar. I can assure you neither of those players ever thought they would be playing significant minutes with the other one.
Neymar was fantastic on the night though. He drove the ball at defenders and tried to break through Lyon’s five-man defensive wall with swift passes on the rain-soaked pitch. For all the chaos he and his entourage created this summer with his transfer request, you can’t deny that the Brazilian has been nothing but professional on the pitch as he’s scored two game-winning goals for PSG in as many games (the other being against RC Strasbourg). After the match, Tuchel had this to say about Neymar via Le Parisien:
Neymar has no choice [but to be 100 percent with PSG’s project], he is under contract, no? He is 100 percent with us. He is 100 percent in the squad—he laughs and jokes and is reliable. He is totally with his teammates. That is normal, as well as necessary. He is a very sensitive guy.
Neymar’s sensitive nature is likely what spurred him on and motivated him to score a fantastic goal right before the final whistle. Leading up to the goal, Neymar had been pelted with debris from Lyon’s supporters every time he took a corner kick. It was embarrassing and extremely sad to see in the modern game. Neymar was clearly bothered by it as he hesitated to take the corner each time plastic bottles rained down upon him.
Perhaps it was this disrespect from the Lyon supporters that touched a nerve and motivated Neymar to put his head down and pull a spectacular move out of his bag of tricks. Marco Verratti’s introduction in the 72nd minute certainly helped as it was the Italian who sparked the attack that led to Di Maria assisting Neymar’s goal.
— beIN SPORTS USA (@beINSPORTSUSA) September 22, 2019
For the most part, the entire squad performed very well. Keylor Navas for the second match in a row didn’t face a shot on goal and the defense in front of him deserves a lot of praise. Thiago Silva was excellent at breaking up passes and clearing crosses. Abdou Diallo picked up a yellow due to a phantom tackle but put in a decent shift as well. Juan Bernat continues to be Mr. Consistency but it was the play of Marquinhos and Idrissa Gueye that stood out the most. Against two difficult opponents, the midfield duo has completely shut down anyone who dares try to cross into their end of the pitch and in the case of Gueye, contribute to the attack as well (he assisted Di Maria’s second goal against Madrid). Along with Verratti, Gueye and Marquinhos complement each other perfectly and while Neymar is scoring the goals, the midfield is doing the dirty work at the back and allowing PSG’s star the freedom to create goal-scoring chances.
This is an excellent sign for PSG fans. We’ve said that this is the most talented and deep squad PSG has had in years and they’re starting to put together quality wins and battling through adversity. A 0-0 draw away at Lyon is nothing to be ashamed about, but this team kept pressing for a winner and Neymar especially deserves a lot of credit for the way he’s handled himself since returning to the team. The capital club maintains their top spot in Ligue 1 with a three-point lead over surprises of the season so far, Angers SCO and OGC Nice.
Up next, Paris Saint-Germain faces Stade de Reims at the Parc des Princes. We’re planning on having a videographer at the game so if you’re attending and would like to give your thoughts on the match, shoot us a message and we’ll give you the details.
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