Magic Mbappe! PSG winners, losers & ratings as vulnerable Juventus the latest victims of in-form star
A stunning Kylian Mbappe brace carried a sometimes-shaky Paris Saint-Germain to a 2-1 victory in their Champions League opener against Juventus.
At first glance, PSG are a fresh-off-the-lot Ferrari. Peel away the sparkling chassis and glistening paint, however, and there are serious engineering flaws that could prevent their Champions League charge. Again.
At times against Juventus, the most expensively-assembled front-three in history were completely unplayable, and Mbappe’s quick-fire brace, helped by Neymar, showed the special, glistening side of the French club.
Yet, defensively they never looked entirely comfortable, with Filip Kostic and Juan Cuadrado causing trouble with their pinpoint deliveries into the box. Once Weston McKennie cut into their lead, their mental approach seemed to disintegrate in a scary reminder of what happened against Real Madrid last March.
New boss Christophe Galtier still has work to do to prove the same old problems that have prevented the club lifting the trophy can be addressed.
But it helps he has Mbappe on his side. That’s a head start over almost anyone on the continent.
The inevitable Mbappe.
Neymar has been stealing the headlines at the start of the season with his goal-scoring exploits, but the Frenchman offered a timely reminder of why PSG did everything in their power to keep him as the club’s figurehead for years to come.
Each of Mbappe’s goals were astounding in their effortlessness, and he made Gleison Bremer look nothing like the heir to Turin’s defensive throne he was brought in to the Old Lady to become.
Benfica would have felt a pang of anxiety when they saw themselves drawn in Group H alongside PSG and Juventus a few weeks ago.
But on the evidence of this display, the Portuguese giants can be hopeful of navigating through to the knockout stages this season.
Not only have they begun strongly themselves – beating Maccabi Haifa 2-0 in their opening game – but also they avoided Juventus earning a point in Paris, which could have been a death blow.
After a move to Napoli fell through at the eleventh hour, Navas might have been settling in for a season on the bench.
Then, Gianluigi Donnarumma misjudged coming for a corner, with Weston McKennie nodding home.
While Donnarumma went on to make some nice saves, the slight error suggested PSG’s No. 1 is fallible, opening the door for Navas to perhaps get some minutes as the season progresses.
After taking criticism for his negative approach against Fiorentina at the weekend, the Bianconeri boss doubled down here, setting his side up in a low block early on in an attempt to starve Mbappe and Co. of any space to exploit in behind before hitting them on the counter out wide.
It didn’t work, with PSG’s star man netting an early brace which ultimately put the game beyond the visitors.
Allegri could have shifted his own personal narrative if Juventus had managed to grab an equaliser during their late pressure, but alas, they did not, meaning the debate over whether Juventus should be more assertive from the start will rumble on.
Bremer was heralded as the answer to Juventus’ defensive issues in the summer, but he looked like a rabbit in the headlights on his Champions League debut.
He just could not live with Mbappe’s movement, being sucked in for Mbappe’s first goal and almost being caught out several times thereafter.
There is no doubting that Bremer is an accomplished young defender – his displays for Torino last season prove that – but he does need to put in a more confident performance in his side’s next European game.
After assisting Mbappe with a sumptuous chip in the first half, Neymar might have expected his old mate to return the favour a few minutes after the interval.
Instead, the Frenchman ignored his run and went for goal himself, thumping an effort into the side netting. Neymar – who would have had the simplest of finishes – did well to play it cool, but it was a disappointing moment after their earlier chemistry.
PSG Ratings: Defence
Gianluigi Donnarumma (6/10):
Made an important save to protect his side’s lead in the first half. Probably have collected the ball and prevented McKennie’s goal.
Sergio Ramos (6/10):
Did fairly well defensively. You imagine his presence prevented an all-out capitulation at the back when the pressure was on.
Far from authoritative at the heart of the defence, as the unease with which he dealt with crosses was worrying.
Presnel Kimpembe (5/10):
Perhaps could have cut out Filip Kostic’s corner before McKennie nodded it home.
Achraf Hakimi (8/10):
Pushed on down the right-hand side to great effect and assisted Mbappe’s second goal with a deft pass.
Marco Verratti (8/10):
Proved that he is still one of the very best around when fit. Spotless in possession and dogged when he did not have the ball.
A neat and tidy midfield performance. A good, sensible addition to PSG’s ranks this summer.
Nuno Mendes (5/10):
Beaten too easily in the air by McKennie for his goal. Not much to report offensively.
Lionel Messi (8/10):
Quiet before the interval but grew into the game. Only goalkeeping heroics and poor decision making from his team-mates prevented him creating a goal.
Kylian Mbappe (8/10):
Unplayable in the first half. However, he should have squared to Neymar for an easy tap-in just after the interval.
His assist for the opener was jaw-dropping. Involved in some nice link-up play and would have had a goal if Mbappe hadn’t been greedy.
Subs & Manager
Danilo Pereira (6/10):
Brought on to provide some steel in the closing stages.
Nordi Mukiele (6/10):
Carlos Soler (6/10):
A nice welcome to the club after his deadline day move from Valencia.
Renato Sanches (6/10):
Only played a few minutes.
Christophe Galtier (7/10):
Has some work to do to make this team function defensively, but Pochettino rarely got displays like this out of the front three.