‘Lazy’ Neymar recovers to star for PSG as Cavani nets in Strasbourg stroll
Although Paris Saint-Germain’s 5-2 win over Strasbourg on Saturday looked a one-sided affair on paper, the reality was that Thierry Laurey’s visitors put up a fight and worried the French capital outfit a few times.
Julian Draxler, Neymar, Angel Di Maria and Edinson Cavani (two) scored the goals for PSG but Jean Eudes Aholou and Stephane Bahoken found the back of the net for Strasbourg.
The win does not atone for the 3-1 Champions League round-of-16 first leg defeat away at Real Madrid but it does immediately restore a bit of confidence among Unai Emery’s troops.
The most important thing was to recover from the loss at the Bernabeu and Les Parisiens did just that, even if they took a while to get going.
PSG’s slow start allowed Strasbourg to take the lead through Aholou and it was encouraging that after the midweek defeat to Real, the players were able to raise themselves after going a goal down to score three times in quick succession.
Aholou’s opener seemed to wake the hosts from their post-Madrid malaise and after that, Neymar stopped loafing around and the Brazilian superstar’s teammates also rolled up their socks — the rest of their display was much more committed.
On a day when drawing a line under the events in midweek was the only thing that really mattered, PSG still switched off twice for Strasbourg’s two goals and that needs to be stamped out across the two games with Marseille and the one against Troyes before the Real return leg.
Otherwise, it was the sort of response Emery would have been hoping for.
Manager rating out of 10
6 — Emery rotated his starting XI and reinstated captain Thiago Silva, Layvin Kurzawa, Lassana Diarra and Angel Di Maria. The result, even if it was a bit scratchy at times, was a clear-cut win.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Alphonse Areola, 5 — Did not have too much to do and stood little chance with Aholou’s early opener after some poor defending in front of him, but the youth academy graduate should have done much better with Bahoken’s strike for the second.
DF Dani Alves, 5 — Seemingly exempt from sensible squad rotation, so Emery started him over Thomas Meunier here. What the Spaniard got in return was an average showing from the Brazil international — not particularly poor, but not particularly good — and he took a few knocks, as well as a first half yellow card.
DF Thiago Silva, 6 — The captain was restored to the starting XI after being ousted by Presnel Kimpembe in Madrid and partnered by the Frenchman in central defence. Solid, if unspectacular, and performed well enough after what was undoubtedly a huge blow — and perhaps wake-up call — to his confidence but picked up a second half booking.
DF Presnel Kimpembe, 7 — Strong at the back once again and performed with as much maturity alongside Silva as he shows when paired up with Marquinhos. The 22-year-old is developing into a very reliable figure under Emery.
DF Layvin Kurzawa, 5 — Good going forward and involved in Draxler’s equaliser, but not so good defensively as he returned from injury in the place of Yuri Berchiche.
MF Lassana Diarra, 5 — Continued his return to match sharpness with nearly an hour against Strasbourg before making way for Thiago Motta after an uneventful outing.
MF Giovani Lo Celso, 6 — Got back on the horse after his Real nightmare and looked less burdened deployed in a more advanced central midfield role.
MF Julian Draxler, 6 — Pulled PSG level after 11 minutes when he swept home and was creative during his 81 minutes on the pitch before making way for Christopher Nkunku.
FW Angel Di Maria, 6 — A mixed afternoon, with a first half goal to his name and a shocking second half miss.
FW Edinson Cavani, 7 — Had to wait until the final 20 minutes but finally got his goals. Although he has found things tougher since the start of 2018, Les Parisiens’ No. 9 took both goals well.
FW Neymar, 7 — Woke up after a lazy start to the match, which saw him contribute towards Strasbourg’s opener, and he finished with a cheeky goal, a lovely assist for Cavani’s second and some highlight reel-worthy trickery.
MF Thiago Motta, 5 — Sent on for the final 33 minutes as he continued his recovery from another injury lay-off.
MF Javier Pastore, 6 — Replaced Lo Celso after 57 minutes and teed up Cavani for his first in a creative cameo performance.
MF Christopher Nkunku, N/R — Got nine token minutes at the end of the match as Emery looked to close things out against an unintimidated Strasbourg side.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.