PSG are not fooling around this season. One week after winning the Trophee des Champions with a 4-0 walloping of Nantes, the reigning Ligue 1 champions opened their title defense with a 5-0 road win against relegation candidate Clermont Foot.
Neymar scored the opening goal and assisted the next three, and Lionel Messi closed out the scoring with the final two goals as the PSG stars showed they are already on their game under new manager Christophe Galtier.
What probably has their foes shuddering is that they’ve done it without superstar Kylian Mbappe. The French World Cup champion missed last week’s match due to suspension, and then was ruled out with an adductor injury against Clermont. Galtier confirmed he’ll likely return against Montpellier next weekend.
The new PSG manager fielded the same lineup for the second week in a row and it produced similar results as Les Parisiens are already building a head of steam on the back of its superstars.
Messi bicycle goal, but was his assist better?
PSG were already up 4-0 when Lionel Messi sprinted in behind to receive a long ball. With his back to goal, he took it off his chest and sent an overhead kick over the ‘keeper for the exclamation mark on his and his club’s performance. Watch the GIF below:
And if you thought that the bicycle kick was nice, the assist he had on Neymar’s goal was probably even better for the finesse and the football IQ that he showed:
to finish, which was rarely seen last season under Mauricio Pochettino.
Neymar sends a message
Prior to the season there were many who believed that Neymar could be on his way out of PSG as part of the changes that needed to be made for PSG to get back on track.
Two goals and an assist against Nantes last week followed by a goal and three assists the next tell you all you need to know about where the Brazilian sees his future.
Past the goals and assists, what stood out most about Neymar’s performance is his running back to defend and apply pressure. There were matches last season where that level of defending was optional by the three front men. It has been an important part of PSG’s success so far under Galtier. We’ll see if it remains consistent throughout the season, especially during the tougher matches.
“What I take away [from the game] is the collective desire to want to recover the ball right away, and the high intensity without any relaxing,” Galtier said postgame. “Pablo Sarabia gives us good balance, Leo Messi is quick and reacts when we lose the ball, and Ney has made an effort in getting back. And that allows the team block to be very compact and to win the ball [in that density of players].”
Special debuts for PSG
PSG were really flexing their muscle with the quality of the personnel they brought off the bench against Clermont.
How about newly acquired French defender Nordi Mukiele for Sergio Ramos in defense. And the promising Hugo Ekitike for Pablo Sarabia in attack. In-demand Argentine international Leandro Paredes replaced Vitinha. And then there was Warren Zaire-Emery who filled in for Marco Verratti.
If you’ve never heard the name Zaire-Emery, get used to it. He has impressed the coaching staff with his performances during preseason and he did well enough that Galtier gave him his official debut for the club making him the youngest senior player in club history, four months younger than Kingsley Coman.
“It’s also important to put words in action,” PSG manager Galtier said. “We speak about our [PSG] youth development being of a very high level. And so our young players need to feel involved. In that sense, we’ll make an effort to have them play when matches appear to be over.”
PSG — Neymar (Lionel Messi) — 9th min.
PSG — Achraf Hakimi (Neymar) — 26th min.
PSG — Marqinhos (Neymar) — 39th min.
PSG — Lionel Messi (Neymar) — 80th min.
PSG — Lionel Messi (Leandro Paredes) — 86th min.
86th min.: What a goal by Messi! It’s 5-0! Long ball by Leandro Paredes and Messi takes it off his chest and lobs it over the ‘keeper with an overhead kick. Class from Messi!
82nd min.: PSG sub.The 16-year-old Warren Zaire-Emery (below) replaces Marco Verratti. Meanwhile, Clermont have brought in two players Brandon Baiye and Sofyan Chader (for Maxime Gonalons).
80th min.: PSG goal! It’s another deadly transition led by Lionel Messi. He dishes to Neymar, who feeds it back to Messi, and the Argentine great finds the low far corner.
78th min.: PSG subs. Hugo Ekitike makes his debut in place of Pablo Sarabia. Meanwhile Juan Bernat subs in for Nuno Mendes.
77th min.: We have a chance! It’s Achraf Hakimi crossing the ball from the right and it’s met by left back Nuno Mendes, whose header is saved for a corner.
73rd min.: Clermont subs. It’s Yohann Magnin (for Muhammed Cham Saracevic) and Jodel Dossou (for Jim Allevinah) entering the match. No real chances to speak of for Clermont in this second half.
67th min.: PSG subs. The teams seem to be going through the motions at this point, but perhaps Leandro Paredes (for Vitinha) and Nordi Mukiele (for Sergio Ramos) can liven things up.
59th min.: Lionel Messi goes on a classic dribbling slalom and dishes to Pablo Sarabia, who crosses to Neymar in the box for a header chance. But Sarabia didn’t hold his run and he was offside.
53rd min.: PSG would be best served to up the intensity because Clermont just had a sequence of passes on the edge of PSG’s box and then Komnen Andric barely missed the top left corner with a blast.
To be clear: The result is not in question, but PSG wants to make sure they don’t fade as they did so often last season.
50th min.: There’s less intensity and verve to this game to start the half. Messi is fouled about 20 yards from goal and takes the set piece himself but it’s off the wall.
46th min.: We’re back underway. No changes to start the second 45 minutes.
Half-time: Clermont 0, PSG 3
Half-time: It’s a mismatch. Clermont lost 6-1 at home to PSG last season and it looks like we’re heading in that direction today. PSG don’t have Kylian Mbappe available, but they’re still having their way with Clermont Foot. Neymar is inspired, Messi is engaged, and it looks like the entire team is having fun out there. This is the ideal way to start the Christophe Galtier era.
45th+ min.: Neymar scoops a pass to Lionel Messi and his shot is saved for a corner. Neymar is feeling it today.
43rd min.: Nuno Mendes makes like Hakimi and dashes down the left into the Clermont box on the left side. But his off-target diagonal shot is wide. He’s hurt on the follow-through by the trailing defender, but Mendes recovers after some treatment.
39th min.: A third PSG goal! Neymar delivers from the left on a set piece and Marquinhos is all alone to head home! 3-0 PSG. The set piece was caused by a Jim Allevinah foul on Vitinha which earned the Clermont player a yellow.
37th min.: Nuno Mendes fires on goal, but the goalkeeper is sure-handed on the stop. PSG are relaxed, confident, and there’s a swagger about them.
26th min.: PSG score again! A Gonalons giveaway in PSG’s own end results in a stunningly quick breakaway launched by Lionel Messi. It ends with Achraf Hakimi drilling the ball into the top right corner.
20th min.: Clermont penalty appeal! Andric is up against two PSG defenders on a high cross in the box, but Presnel Kimpembe looks to put a forearm in his back and Andric goes down. No whistle from the referee, and no VAR intervention.
13th min.: PSG’s Vitinha gets a yellow card for bringing down Clermont’s Elbasan Rashani who was breaking toward goal.
9th min.: Goal PSG! What a touch by Lionel Messi who takes something off the ball and it sets up perfectly for the onrushing Neymar, who hammers home. Beautiful goal.
Neymar’s celebration was also notable:
6th min.: PSG’s first chance comes off the foot of Neymar who turns on a Hakimi cross near the penalty spot. It’s deflected for a corner but nothing comes of it.
3rd min.: Komnen Andric with a header that was an easy grab for Gigi Donnarumma. The cross came from the left side from left wingback Neto Borges. Clermont need Andric to be productive to have any success this season.
1st min.: We’re underway at the Gabriel Montpied Stadium. PSG in their gray kit, kick things off.
30 mins from kickoff: Christophe Galtier is already standing out from his predecessor Mauricio Pochettino, who between Jan. 2021 and May 2022 never fielded an identical lineup two matches in a row. See Opta’s note below.
Clermont vs PSG lineups
Clermont Foot is integrating some new pieces this year including Polish center-back Mateusz Wieteska and midfielder Komnen Andric, who arrives from Dinamo Zagreb. Goalkeeper Mory Diaw, a PSG academy product, will go up against his ex-club as he gets the start in goal.
Clermont Foot starting lineup (4-2-3-1, right to left): 99-Mory Diaw (GK) — 36-Alidu Seidu, 4-Mateusz Wieteska, 21-Florent Ogier (capt.), 3-Neto Borges — 25-Johan Gastien, 12-Maxime Gonalons — 11-Jim Allevinah, 70-Muhammed Cham Saracevic, 18-Elbasan Rashani — 9-Komnen Andric,
Clermont Foot subs (9): 40-Ouparine Djoco (GK), 5-Jean Claude Billong, 19-Arial Mendy, 7-Yohann Magnin, 10-Saif-Eddine Khaoui, 23-Brandon Baiye, 69-Sofyan Chader, 20-Jodel Dossou, 17-Wabo Kamdem
Sarabia will once again replace Mbappe (adductor injury) on the forward line, as Vitinha makes his Ligue 1 debut in midfield. New acquisitions Hugo Ekitike and Nordi Mukiele are on the bench together with 16-year-old Warren Zaire-Emery. Renato Sanches is still working his way to fitness after making the move to PSG and he is not in the squad.
PSG starting lineup (3-4-3, right to left): 99-Gianluigi Donnarumma (GK) — 4-Sergio Ramos, 5-Marquinhos (capt.), 3-Presnel Kimpembe — 2-Achraf Hakimi, 17-Vitinha, 6-Marco Verratti, 25-Nuno Mendes — 19-Pablo Sarabia, 30-Lionel Messi, 10-Neymar
PSG subs (9): 1-Keylor Navas (GK), 14-Juan Bernat, 22-Abdou Diallo, 26-Nordi Mukiele, 8-Leandro Paredes, 15-Danilo Pereira, 33-Warren Zaire-Emery, 29-Arnaud Kalimuendo, 44-Hugo Ekitike