PSG take 4-2 win over Stasbourg after nearly throwing away 3-0 lead
Paris Saint-Germain 4-2 Stasbourg: Mauricio Pochettino’s side nearly throw away 3-0 lead but go on to take all three points thanks to Pablo Sarabia’s late strike as Lionel Messi watches the game from the stands
- Paris Saint-Germain were cruising to victory, going 3-0 up in 30 minutes
- Goals from Mauro Icardi, Kylian Mbappe and Julian Draxler put them ahead
- Strasbourg scored two goals in the second half to make the hosts nervous
- The visitors got a late red card before Pablo Sarabia sealed the win with a fourth
- Lionel Messi watched the game from the grandstands alongside Neymar
On the Champs Elysees, there is by chance a Covid-19 testing tent directly outside the Paris Saint-Germain club store.
On Saturday afternoon there was a queue of around sixty people waiting to enter one of them. At the other, a queue of barely six.
The arrival of Lionel Messi, it would seem, has proved as strong as any vaccine in relegating the worries of a global pandemic.
PSG nearly threw away a 3-0 lead but went on to take all three points against Strasbourg
Kylian Mbappe celebrates with Georginio Wijnaldum after scoring their second goal
Lionel Messi was in attendance for the game watching in the stands with teammate Neymar
Just five minutes walk from Paris’s busiest retail outlet is Le Royal Monceau Hotel, where Messi and his family are currently staying. Since the Argentine’s arrival in this city on Tuesday, supporters and TV crews have kept what has felt like a vigil at the palatial entrance of his £15k-a-night residence.
Messi and PSG has been the only story in town this week; his first steps on Parisian soil, his official unveiling, his first training session, all of it captured and relayed to a live TV audience.
As PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino observed, ‘It has left like Big Brother these past few days’.
On reflection, the furore in the centre of town was nothing compared to the frenzy that awaited at the Parc des Princes on Saturday night.
The main event, we knew in advance, would not be the football. That is why the narrow streets around the stadium were impassable more than two hours before kick-off. Imagine the polar opposite of social distancing and this was it.
Word had spread that Messi would not play – he is still short of match fitness – and would instead be presented ahead of the game.
Mauro Icardi, Mbappe and Julian Draxler gave PSG a 3-0 lead inside 30 minutes
Strasbourg were on their way to mount a comeback before they got a late red card
And so, with a roar that would prove far more intense than anything that greeted the subsequent goals, a full house of 48,000 welcomed Messi onto the pitch to a backdrop of fireworks, flags and flares.
There were four other summer signings already on stage – Sergio Ramos, Georginio Wijnaldum, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Achraf Hakimi – but the rock-star reception was reserved for Messi.
The 34-year-old is here, of course, because Barcelona cannot afford to keep him. Let us not pretend this is the fulfilment of a dream for the six-time Ballon d’Or winner.
Pablo Sarabia added a late fourth for the Parisians to seal a 4-2 win against Strasbourg
But while his reign in Spain has been curtailed against his wishes, to witness this instant worship, the coronation before he has even kicked a ball, is to realise that Messi should enjoy his new surrounds.
Put to one side the feeling that this move lacks romance – the club’s Qatari billions and a relatively uncompetitive league the motivating factors on that front – and there is a sense of excitement at seeing Messi here on the biggest nights.
It strips away some of the scepticism when you experience such a powerful interaction between crowd and player, and you could not escape a sense of wonderment among the locals at the sight of Messi on their turf.
They do, in fairness, know how to make an occasion of a football match in these parts, and this against lowly Strasbourg, who finished last season two points above the bottom three.
That gulf showed as PSG scored three times inside the opening 27 minutes. It was merciful for the visitors that Messi and Neymar were in the stands.
The other member of their three-star attacking constellation was on the pitch. Not that the home fans wanted Kylian Mbappe to be there – the whistles and boos that greeted his inclusion in the team and his first touch of the evening told you that much.
Sergio Ramos and Lionel Messi were introduced before the game on Saturday evening
The front page of L’Equipe on Saturday had asked the question ‘What now?’ for Mbappe, who has refused to sign a new contract amid talk he will quit the club when his deal expires next summer.
The answer was one goal and two assists and a man-of-the-match performance that served as a reminder of his extreme talent.
It would perhaps be wise were supporters to turn those jeers to cheers, for the pace and direct incision of the 22-year-old will be needed alongside the more meandering artistry of his elders.
Mauro Icardi, Julian Draxler and Pablo Sarabia were the other scorers for the home side, a trio of understudies who will revert to the shadows when the leading men are fit. That they cost a combined €120million tells of PSG’s riches.
So, too, did the fact that one of Strasbourg’s goals during a spirted second half was scored by a PSG cast-off, Kevin Gameiro. He is one month older than Messi and seeing out his playing days back at his first club.
There is no such sentiment attached to Messi’s move to Paris. But that does not mean it cannot be fun. This proved as much. Just wait until he actually plays.
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