Neymar illuminates gloomy Parisian night by leading PSG to win vs. Troyes
PARIS — Neymar’s brilliance was the difference as Paris Saint-Germain left it late to take all three points in a 2-0 win over Troyes on Wednesday. The Brazilian superstar broke the deadlock at Parc des Princes with a lovely left-footed effort from distance after 73 minutes and unselfishly teed up strike partner Edinson Cavani for a late second.
Without Neymar, PSG may well have failed to break Troyes’ resistance. The former Barcelona man was the hosts’ best player by far and illuminated the gloomy Parisian night with a goal and an assist, as well as some trick and flicks to keep the supporters warm throughout an otherwise tedious encounter.
Aside from Neymar, the result was the most important thing. Unai Emery was able to rotate many of his regular starters and Les Parisiens still came away with all three points despite not being at their collective best.
However, if Neymar made the difference in attack, then Kevin Trapp definitely made a big contribution at the back. The Germany international made two very good saves to keep Troyes at bay and was otherwise solid.
Although it was important to rotate many of his regular starters, Emery’s choices largely failed. The midfield three of Marco Verratti, Javier Pastore and Giovani Lo Celso was horrible, while Angel Di Maria played like a man who knows his time with the capital club is rapidly coming to an end.
The other big negative was the awful atmosphere inside Parc des Princes. PSG’s ultras bring so much life to even the most mundane of matches that a rare game without them was a stark reminder of what they bring to the table. Aside from the empty seats because of the stand closure inflicted on them by the league, the eerie ambiance created by the lack of noise must have unnerved the players a bit.
Manager rating out of 10
6 — Ultimately, Emery’s starting XI and substitutions got the job done. However, it was far from convincing and some of the Spaniard’s rotation decisions backfired.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Kevin Trapp, 7 — Given a rare chance to impress in place of Alphonse Areola, the German shot stopper grabbed it with both hands — literally — and pulled off a few impressive reflex saves to keep Troyes out.
DF Thomas Meunier, 5 — The Belgium international replaced Dani Alves in the starting XI but produced one of his worst performances of the season and should not expect to put the Brazilian under too much pressure with that sort of outing.
DF Thiago Silva, 6 — The captain was solid enough at the heart of the defence but was not required to be too commanding.
DF Presnel Kimpembe, 6 — The youth academy graduate was calm alongside Silva but like his Brazilian teammate, was not required to work too hard over the 90 minutes.
DF Layvin Kurzawa, 4 — The France international kept his place over Yuri Berchiche and perhaps that was a mistake from Emery as Kurzawa produced the latest in a string of underwhelming displays.
MF Marco Verratti, 6 — The Italy international combined with Pastore and Lo Celso, not to mention played in a deep-lying role, did not work at all. Once Adrien Rabiot was introduced, though, the Azzurri star was a lot more at ease.
MF Javier Pastore, 5 — The Argentina international has complained recently about his lack of regular starts but on the evidence, should keep quiet, wait for his next opportunity and then actually do something with it.
MF Giovani Lo Celso, 5 — The promising Argentinian tried hard to be influential but for one reason or another, the combination of him, Verratti and Pastore was a lamentable one. He will probably have to wait a while for another opportunity like that to impress.
FW Angel Di Maria, 4 — The Argentina international played like a man who feels insulted by his drop in status and wants to show it at every possible moment. El Fideo clearly felt above playing against the likes of Troyes, while superstar Neymar put him to shame by actually taking Jean-Louis Garcia’s men seriously.
FW Edinson Cavani, 5 — It was not the Uruguay international’s best match in front of goal but he still finished with one — thanks to Neymar — and has chipped away at Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s all-time club record, while also becoming the first player since Josip Skoblar back in 1970-71 to score 17 times from 15 matches. Despite all of that, El Matador will be hurting that Mamadou Samassa saved his first-half penalty — the Troyes goalkeeper was well off his line — but at the same time touched by the supporters’ desire to see him take the spot kick he had won ahead of Neymar.
FW Neymar, 8 — In a throwback to the Ibrahimovic era, the Brazilian delivered a talismanic performance. Not only did he score one goal and tee up another, he shone brightest for PSG over the 90 minutes. The hosts’ No. 10 also showed maturity to listen to the Parc des Princes crowd when they got behind Cavani for the penalty — even though he clearly wanted it for himself.
FW Kylian Mbappe, 6 — Sent on in place of Di Maria after 69 minutes, the France international injected some much-needed pace and directness.
MF Adrien Rabiot, 6 — Once the Frenchman replaced Lo Celso for the final 21 minutes, the midfield took on greater structure.
MF Christopher Nkunku, NR — The youth academy graduate needed more than the three minutes he got in place of Pastore but still had the chance to contribute in attack but wasted the moment.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.