Friday, June 2, 2023

Ligue 1: PSG flash invincible credentials as Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi and Neymar all score in Lille rout

Paris Saint-Germain have already set the bar high for the 2022-23 campaign after a 7-1 win away at Lille OSC followed up big wins over Clermont Foot 63 and Montpellier HSC. Kylian Mbappe opened the scoring inside of 10 seconds at Stade Pierre Mauroy on Sunday before Lionel Messi, Achraf Hakimi and Neymar (two) got in on the act before the France international closed out the action with a brace to complete his hat-trick.

Jonathan Bamba did score for the hosts, but it was for little more than pride as Les Dogues had the wind knocked out of them in the opening seconds and could not muster a response. Paulo Fonseca’s men were simply left to watch and marvel as they were carved open at will by the team coached by their former title-winning manager Christophe Galtier¬†

Mbappe was teed up by Messi for the opener, but it was Neymar who was the assist king with a treble — including two of the French superstar’s strikes — on top of his pair of goals in the latest of an electric series of performances so far this term. Hakimi notched one of each while Nuno Mendes was also impressive and set up Messi’s strike, but the collective performance of PSG’s attacking unit was what really set tongues wagging.

“We are very happy, and we had a lot of fun out there,” said away goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma after the final whistle. “I am not happy with the goal we conceded but the most important thing was to win. We played very well, and we produced some excellent soccer. We were great in attack, and we showed that we are very good up top and at the back. The whole team showed some great stuff and that we have superb players. We are working well, and it shows on the pitch which we are very happy with.”

Musing how unstoppable Les Parisiens might be if they focused themselves on their soccer has been quite common over the past few years, but the French capital outfit really have gotten their house in order since Galtier took over as head coach with sporting advisor Luis Campos. Suddenly, what was a lethargic side under Mauricio Pochettino has found new swagger and purpose — notably the star-studded attack.

It is as if the events of the past few months from Mbappe opting to extend his contract at Parc des Princes instead of joining Real Madrid to slight alterations to the team such as Vitinha’s addition to the midfield have reinvigorated PSG as a collective. Whether it is due to this winter’s FIFA World Cup or not, the players look like they want to achieve things and not just live the good life which they have enjoyed a bit too much of in recent years.

Paris finding this sort of form this early in the season raises the possibility of a new and meaningful record which has not yet been tapped by this Qatar-backed side and that is an unbeaten season. FC Nantes from 1995 remain the benchmark for that and despite numerous dominant sides, PSG are yet to have gone a full campaign without defeat.

This should really have been possible in the Laurent Blanc era and perhaps also in the Thomas Tuchel years. Unai Emery and Mauricio Pochettino’s stints never really threatened that sort of supremacy despite impressive individual match performances in the UEFA Champions League, which hinted at brilliance.

Pochettino must be envious and a bit perplexed that Galtier’s starting XI only needed the addition of Vitinha to look so utterly revitalized. The Argentine never got near his French successor’s level of mastery and although it is early days, the control element to Galtier’s tenure so far is remarkable compared with Pochettino’s relative lack of authority.

The UCL will be the ultimate test for this current PSG revolution, but the early signs are that it is a meaningful one and perhaps the most convincing one yet. If Mbappe and Neymar have definitively put their tensions behind them as the commanding result suggests, Galtier could yet make light of his relative inexperience in Europe and make this Parisien side a continental threat too.

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