Monday, September 26, 2022

Champions League: PSG off the mark in win over Juventus, miss chance to make statement after Mbappe double

PARIS — Paris Saint-Germain opened their UEFA Champions League campaign with a 2-1 win over Juventus at Parc des Princes, but the French giants made hard work of it in the second half. Kylian Mbappe had PSG cruising with two first-half goals, but the French superstar got selfish and ignored Neymar on a chance to make it 3-0 and Weston McKennie quickly halved the deficit.

It was not quite the statement that it threatened to be when Mbappe opened the scoring within five minutes, but it was a still a victory which could and perhaps should have been more convincing. Juve were second best for most of the contest and offered little to no creativity with McKennie’s goal coming from a corner.

Gianluigi Donnarumma did have to be on his toes to keep the Italian side at bay once or twice, but the Azzurri shot-stopper was also culpable as the Old Lady got back into it. PSG head coach Christophe Galtier went for consistency with his XI and was ultimately rewarded for it with another victory, but the defense is far from watertight and there needed to be greater killer instinct in attack.

“Technically, the first half was very good,” said Galtier post-game. “In the second half, we hesitated a bit on the goal. That gave them hope and made things tough. Champions League is about suffering and there is always a feeling that fate is on our heels. Winning in moments of difficult strengthens the team.”

Marquinhos‘ difficult start to the season continued in the middle of the back line while Achraf Hakimi had a quiet night bar his assist. Much of that might be nitpicking given that PSG ultimately won, but the feeling has always been that SL Benfica might be the tougher challenge than Juve this time.

As for Massimiliano Allegri’s side, they were chaotic and fortunate to peg the home side back when they did. Inferior overall, the Old Lady’s back line was cumbersome, the midfield workmanlike and there was nowhere near enough creativity.

Granted, this was a Juve side missing Federico Chiesa, Paul Pogba and Angel Di Maria, but it was not surprising that their Serie A troubles followed them into Europe. Maccabi Haifa might not strike fear into this Italian side, but they should be wary of Benfica given that they face the Eagles next and Allegri already has them pegged as qualification rivals.

This was less PSG making a statement in the end and more the logical difference between the two sides being the outcome but there is certainly more than Galtier’s men can do in coming games. Some moments in the first half were a glimpse of what Les Parisiens can be with Mbappe and Neymar combining to dizzying impact and Messi pulling the strings too.

“We are happy, but we also could have done a little more,” admitted Mbappe after the match. “We got the essentials right, though, and we leave with a great win in a superb atmosphere. There are areas to improve, for sure, and we really must establish ourselves in the opposition’s half. Also, defesnively, when you are vulnerable, you must not be too vulnerable.”

Should Galtier be able to harness that, then this PSG side could very well become a contender for this season’s title. Instead, they come away with the win but with some fine-tuning left to do while Allegri and Juve look resigned to a scrap for second place.

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