Paris Saint-Germain Sneak By Strasbourg in Neymar’s Return

Saturday afternoon at the Parc des Princes felt like a new beginning for a club that has been through the wringer for the better part of 2019.

Paris Saint-Germain not only unveiled their new third kit, which is absolutely stunning and a must-purchase for any PSG fan, but they also trotted out Neymar Jr. in the starting lineup after a tumultuous summer that we really don’t need to get into here. Paris ultimately won the match 1-0 over RC Strasbourg thanks to an amazing stoppage-time goal from Neymar, but there’s a lot more to unpack in this one and we’re left with a lot more questions than answers after the final whistle.

Neymar was without his usual supporting cast as Kylian Mbappé and Edinson Cavani remain out after picking up injuries prior to the international break. Juan Bernat, Julian Draxler, Thilo Kehrer, and Marquinhos were also left out of the squad by manager Thomas Tuchel. New signing Mauro Icardi started on the bench while fellow newcomer Keylor Navas, perhaps the most important signing of the summer, made his debut between the sticks in front of the PSG faithful.

The first half was pretty brutal to watch. The main talking point was the treatment of Neymar by the PSG Ultras, who said prior to the match that they would treat the superstar with indifference, but only starting on Sunday. Many expected a hostile welcome for Neymar, which is probably why the club likely chose to forgo their usual red-carpet entrance for something a little less subdued in an effort to shield Neymar from supporters who would like to share a few words with the Brazilian.


To be fair, PSG gave supporters very little else to do other than whistle every time Neymar touched the ball. PSG recorded zero shots on goal and offered very little creativity going forward. The two standout moments included Navas making a diving save and a chip attempt from some distance by Neymar that ultimately went wide.

Tuchel decided to make no changes to start the second half and the uninspiring performance continued. After an hour of play, PSG recorded only one shot on goal while maintaining 61 percent possession. The manager finally made a positive change in the 63rd minute by bringing on Icardi and taking of Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting who failed to continue his scoring streak. Less than 10 minutes later, Tuchel made his final two changes bringing on Presnel Kimpembe for Layvin Kurzawa and Ander Herrera for Pablo Sarabia, who continues to struggle inexplicably.

The match started to open up a bit late in the second half. Strasbourg’s compact defense loosened some but Paris failed to capitalize on the few scoring opportunities that opened up. Matz Sels was a wall in goal for the visitors, as was Navas for PSG. The two goalkeepers recorded several outstanding saves to keep things deadlocked for 90 minutes.

In stoppage time is when PSG started to wake up. In the second minute of stoppage time, Diallo crossed the ball into a crowded box and picked out Neymar who, with his back to goal, acrobatically fired an over-the-head shot with his left foot that clipped the post and settled into the back of the net for PSG’s only goal of the game. It was the kind of goal that very few footballers on the planet can score and its why so many supporters are willing to forgive Neymar for the summer of unrest and get behind him this season.

Neymar would go on to score a second goal but it was ruled offside and the game ultimately ended 1-0 with PSG picking up the three points.

Other than that one spark of brilliance, the match was frustrating to watch from a PSG supporters point of view. There was little creativity, with both Angel Di Maria and Sarabia offering very little on the wings. Idrissa Gueye and Marco Verratti were solid in the middle of the pitch, as you would expect, and the defense was stout thanks largely to Navas. Without Mbappé though, PSG lacked anyone with game-changing pace. Icardi looked lively when he came on but he didn’t really make his mark. You would assume he’ll need time to settle in with his new teammates.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise but Paris Saint-Germain needs Mbappé and Neymar to be healthy and playing at a high level to be successful this season. They have a lot of great complimentary players but those two players are crucial to PSG’s success in the UEFA Champions League.

We’ll get a chance to see Neymar and hopefully Mbappé this Wednesday as PSG welcome Real Madrid to the Parc des Princes for Matchday 1 of the Champions League.

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Tags Ander Herrera Angel Di Maria Edinson Cavani Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting Idrissa Gueye Juan Bernat Julian Draxler Keylor Navas Kylian Mbappé Layvin Kurzawa Ligue 1 Marco Verratti Marquinhos Mauro Icardi Neymar Pablo Sarabia RC Strasbourg Alsace Thilo Kehrer Thomas Tuchel Ultras
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