Di Maria Shows Why He Is PSG’s MVP Against Nice

Paris Saint-Germain football finally returned on Friday as Paris Saint-Germain traveled to the Côte d’Azur to play OGC Nice at the Allianz Riviera. With many of PSG’s stars either injured, suspended, or fatigued from international duty, Angel Di Maria took the opportunity to show why he just might be the club’s most valuable player this season.

The Ligue 1 leaders won the match 4-1 to maintain their lead at the top of the table with a five-point lead over FC Nantes. It was the perfect start to their post-international break fixture list that also includes a difficult away match against Club Brugge in the UEFA Champions League and a visit to the Parc des Princes by their bitter rivals Olympique de Marseille.

If the match against Nice was a play, the opening act would have been all about Di Maria. The Argentine was dynamic and ruthless in front of goal and after only 21 minutes, PSG found themselves up 2-0 thanks to Fideo.

The first goal came in the 15th minute off of some excellent positioning from Di Maria and a brilliant pass from Mauro Icardi. Building from the back, PSG worked the ball out wide and then into the middle of the pitch to Icardi who was able to avoid a slide tackle and with one touch, play a through ball to Di Maria who stayed on PSG’s defensive side of the pitch to avoid offsides. Di Maria raced onto the ball with the Nice defenders chasing him and calmly slotted the ball into the far corner.

Six minutes later, Di Maria was at it again and this time he scored what may turn out to be the goal of the season. Thomas Meunier lobbed a ball over the top to Di Maria who was sprinting towards goal down the right flank. The ball bounced twice and instead of crossing into the middle for Icardi or Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, PSG’s #11 chipped the ball from a nearly impossible angle and it flew over the head of Walter Benítez and into the back of the net. It’s a goal you will want to watch over and over.

The first half ended 2-0 and it was a tremendous performance from Thomas Tuchel’s squad. PSG certainly didn’t look like a team suffering from an injury crisis coming off an international break.

The important thing was to win. We started well and took advantage of the space. I’m very happy. The coach gives me confidence, and I have faith in him, and I want to repay that faith on the pitch.—Angel Di Maria to Canal+ Sport via PSG.fr

The second half was a bit more exciting due to more goals being scored and multiple players being sent off with red cards.

In the 67th minute, Nice would get back into the game thanks to Ignatius Ganago taking advantage of some comical defending from PSG. Layvin Kurzawa, who had just come into the game for Choupo-Moting, played a lazy header back to Abdou Diallo who wasn’t able to beat the rushing attacker to the ball. Nice crossed into the box and both Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe failed to clear and Ganago blasted a shot past Keylor Navas.

The goal lifted Nice and their home supporters and they pushed for an equalizer briefly but it all came crashing down in the 74th minute when Wylan Cyprien received a second yellow for dissent and was dismissed from the game. Shortly after, Christophe Hérelle received a straight red when VAR showed that he smacked Leandro Paredes in the face when the officer had his back turned. Down a goal and to nine men, Nice had to hold on from there but PSG showed no mercy in the remaining minutes of the match.

Kylian Mbappé made his return from injury in the 83rd minute and five minutes later, he scored a goal. Di Maria made another run into the box and fired a shot on target but Nice defender Dante deflected it out to the top of the box, right to Mbappé, who took on the shot with his first touch and the pace was too much for Benítez to handle.

Not satisfied with just a goal, Mbappé also recorded an assist to Mauro Icardi who once again found himself in the right place and the right time for an easy goal. The Frenchman found some space inside the box and instead of taking the shot on, he unselfishly crossed to the Argentine for the easy tap-in in stoppage time.

WhoScored.com gave Di Maria Man of the Match honors, rating him a perfect 10 on the night and his compatriot, Icardi, was right behind him with an 8.1 rating after recording a goal and an assist. Di Maria was incredible but Icardi’s performance shouldn’t be lost. His pass to Di Maria for the first goal was absolutely world-class and it’s why he should get the nod over Edinson Cavani moving forward. I love El Matador but there are just some things he can’t do and that pass is one of them. Not to mention what Cavani is good at, Icardi is better, so it’s really a no-brainer for Tuchel who the starting striker should be.

Not enough can be said about Di Maria and his consistent performances to start the 2019-20 season. Neymar Jr. may have three game-winning goals in Ligue 1, but it’s Di Maria who scored the brace against Real Madrid in the biggest Champions League match of the season so far. He has been PSG’s creative force and has looked spectacular while doing it. If he can maintain this level of performance throughout the season, which has always been his issue, he is a top 10 player in the world.

We also learned in this match that either Thiago Silva or Marquinhos needs to be playing center-back at all times. A partnership between Kimpembe and Diallo doesn’t work as we saw tonight. PSG may be able to get away with it against a mid-tier Ligue 1 team but in the Champions League, I would go with Silva and Kimpembe with Marquinhos in the defensive midfield role.

As I mentioned earlier, PSG must now prepare for another road test against Brugge next Tuesday. A win will all but punch their ticket to the knockout stage of the Champions League and potentially allow Tuchel to give some rest to his star players. We’ll have a lot more on this game against Nice and preview the upcoming Champions League match as well. Allez Paris!

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Tags Abdou Diallo Angel Di Maria Edinson Cavani Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting Keylor Navas Kylian Mbappé Ligue 1 Marquinhos Mauro Icardi OGC Nice Presnel Kimpembe Thiago Silva Thomas Tuchel
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