On Sunday morning, for the first time this season, all of Paris Saint-Germain’s heavy hitters graced the pitch together, including a debut for Sergio Ramos at the heart of defense alongside Marquinhos. Up top, Saint-Étienne squared up with the quartet of Neymar, Kylian Mbappé, Lionel Messi and Ángel Di María.
The atmosphere at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in eastern central France was raucously defiant, a required mood given the club’s current standing of 19th in Ligue 1. Every tackle was roared, every reaction from Neymar was widely jeered and the home side’s remarkable 23rd-minute opener had the place rocking before the assistant incorrectly flagged for offside. The VAR remedied that error.
Denis Bouanga provided the finish off the rebound, but the delicious outside-of-the-boot feed from Wahbi Khazri was what created it all.
But PSG began building pressure going the other way, primarily through the one attacker who lived up to his billing during last Wednesday’s Champions League defeat against Manchester City, Mbappé. The 22-year-old should’ve brought PSG level in the 41st but was denied by an excellent save from Etienne Green. Four minutes later the Frenchman was played through by Messi, forcing center back Timothée Kolodziejczak into decisive action.
Kolodziejczak’s initial challenge wasn’t bringing down Mbappé, but the defender then swept his leg upward and caught the attacker on the knee. The referee showed a straight red to Kolodziejczak.
From the ensuing free kick, two minutes into first-half stoppage time, Messi drove one straight at Marquinhos and the Brazilian snapped home a powerful header.
It was all one-way traffic in the second 45 with Saint-Étienne defending with 10, but PSG worked its way through the mass of bodies in the 79th with Messi pulling the strings as puppet master. The Argentine received the ball at the top of the box and beat Mickael Nade with a saucy cut that popped the ball over the defender’s challenge. The move drew two more defenders into his orbit, freeing Di María.
Messi’s next touch was picking out his compatriot, who then had ample time and space to deliver his favorite finish — a left-footed curler inside the far post.
PSG added a third in stoppage time after Messi delivered his third assist of the match, a looping cutback that Marquinhos met for his brace.
Ramos went the full 90 and looked sharp, completing a team-high 95 of 101 passes (94%) and three tackles.
The only bad news for PSG is that a tearful Neymar was stretchered off in the 88th minute with an apparent ankle injury.
— Justin it for the Clout (@JUSTIN_AVFC_) November 28, 2021
PSG’s lead over second-place Nice is 14 points after 15 matches. Time to start giving Xavi Simons some minutes.