How PSG demolished Red-Star Belgrade

We are back in business. Today is a film-review of PSG’s champions league victory over Red-Star. Next up will be their historic win over Lyon.

Start with the goals?

Start with the goals.

Neymar 20’

I mean, lol, what is there to say about this. Just a wold-class strike from a world-class player. Absolutely perfect hit, just barely over the wall and curved into the net. Neymar has got to be one of the, if not just the, most deadly place-kickers in the world. Whether it be taking a shot like this or making a service ball.

Neymar 22’

I mean, Neymar had this entire game totally on a string. He gets the initial move going with the good pass to Mbappe, then on the finish it doesn’t look like anything great but that is a really impressive finish. It is pretty quick and at an awkward height and Neymar still slots it away effortlessly. Just another display of world-class football by Neymar.

Edinson Cavani 37’

Red Star simply both the clearance of a Mbappe pass and Cavani pounces. He does appear to get lucky with a deflection as the keeper seemed to have the initial trajectory covered, but the move to get the shot off was excellent. That cut to the middle is just utterly brilliant, which makes this, in many ways, a classic Cavani goal. He isn’t as flashy or impressive as Mbappe or Neymar often are, but he is still highly effective as a striker. Creates an angle in tight space out of nothing to get a shot on goal, and if you put it on net you never know what may happen.

Di Maria 41’

The Belgrade back-line does kind of blow this. It is a nifty service by Meunier with the outside of his foot, but there is little excuse for no one to match Di Maria’s run and let him totally free like that.

With that said, that is a lovely service and Di Maria does well to finish it with just a slight touch to send it into the corner netting without giving the goalie any real chance.

Mbappe 70’

Neymar is perfect. Seriously, this is as absurd a display of skill as you will ever see on a football pitch. Like, imagine watching this, and being so white that you derided Neymar for not being “gritty” enough.

First is the long run, where he uses the supposedly missing “grit” to fight through two blatant fouls, finishes it off with a brilliant pass to Di Maria who rockets a pass directly at the keeper. Shot comes off and Neymar immediately goes back to work, putting the defenders in a spin-cycle before chipping the ball perfectly over to Thiago Silva.

Credit to Silva for not trying to put the ball on net himself, given the score it would’ve been easy for him to have a crack at the goal on his own, but instead he just touches it over to Mbappe who has a wide-open net and doesn’t miss.

Once again though, this is pretty much all Neymar and is a play that shows Neymar at his best. A perfect combination of skill, brilliance, and disrespect. Also, just as with Silva, credit to Neymar for making a pair of great passes instead of trying to force his way to his hat-trick. Once again, given the score, you could hardly fault him if he just let one rip himself.

Marko Marin 74’

I mean, obviously a fairly meaningless goal, but still kind of frustrating. Marin does have a really nice finish at the end, but it comes as a result of PSG falling into their tendency to just fall asleep on defense and allow a good chance. So even though I am not going to shame the defensive effort in this game, it is frustrating to give up a goal that you shouldn’t have.

Neymar 81’

The keeper’s reaction says it all. What are you supposed to do other than tip your cap? It’s easy to forget how absurd that shot is. That is a very long distance from the goal, and Neymar makes easy work of it. Total perfection.

One thing you will notice on the non-Neymar goals is that the initial move is started by Marco Verratti. This is not a coincidence, and it is also not a coincidence that PSG have looked, rather markedly, better with the pint-sized Italian in the lineup.

One of PSG’s consistent issues this season has been their inability to win the ball back in the midfield. They have so much attacking power that they can hold the ball for long periods and easily score goals, but when you are starting Cavani, Neymar, Mbappe, and Di Maria, there is not often going to be great effort to win the ball back.

Verratti doesn’t totally fix this, but he covers up a lot of the laziness of Paris’ big front 4. (Even if both Di Maria and especially Cavani are actually fairly willing defenders as far as world-class goal-scorers go) His willingness to really go after the ball and win it is something that PSG doesn’t really have anywhere else before the back line.

Whether out of the air like the above clip, or by running down an opposing player in the below one.

Rabiot is often a pretty good defender in the midfield, but he doesn’t bring the same intensity and desire as Verratti to win the ball. Even with a healthy Verratti this remains a bit of a blind-spot for PSG against Europe’s elite, but with Verratti their balance is quiet so terrible.

I would also be remiss to not note that his effort can be contagious, check out this effort to get back on defense by Di Maria.

Great effort to get back and at least delay the counter-attack. I’m not asking for a miracle out of PSG’s powerful attacking players, but at least occasional effort like this will go a long ways against the highest competition in Europe.

One thing worth noting is that PSG did, very briefly, get off to a fairly poor start to this game. It mostly came down to guys just making some poor touches. This has also, at times, been a theme with PSG this season. Obviously every player has bad touches at times, but it ties into their tendency to let their concentration slip.

They cleaned it up quickly and Neymar in particular became a ball of unstoppable football wind very early in the game, but they will have to watch these sort of things. Being fully locked-in from start to finish is something that PSG will likely need if they want to fulfill their lofty ambitions. Once again though, Neymar took total control of this game fairly early on.

Some people have said Mbappe played poorly.

I mean, by his own lofty standards there is some truth to that. Let’s be clear up front though, that is a big qualifier, Mbappe had a goal and an assist in a Champions League game. He had a few chances where he missed shots he probably should’ve put away.

And even though I didn’t bother to make clips of them, there were several plays where he made some sort of attempted showboat play that didn’t work and was totally un-needed. Mbappe’s streak of cockiness and overconfidence is part of what makes him so much fun, he just went a little too far in that direction in this game.

Just as a reminder that he wasn’t all that bad, he did do this, which even if Neymar couldn’t quite finish the look, is the sort of move that only Mbappe can pull off.

Anything else from the game that was just fun?

I mean, most of the game was fun. But here’s a few excellent sequences by Neymar even if they didn’t result in goals just to drive home how good he was in this game.

that’s an awfully nice goal you’ve got their, it’d be a shame if something were too, happen to it.

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It doesn’t show up hugely in any of the clips, but I wanted to also shout out Juan Bernat for quietly having a really nice game. His best moment was probably this service to Cavani that nearly resulted in a goal.

Bernat doesn’t have the same defensive work-rate as Verratti and has struggled a little bit at times this year. But he, like Verratti, was often somehow involved in a lot of the good stuff PSG did in this game.

Final thoughts?

I mean, this was somewhat the result expected, but still good that they got it. Had they not won, or even won a close game without dominating, then the chatter about the teams flaws would’ve gotten even louder which would’ve been unpleasant for everyone from the players to us fans.

Especially to follow it up with the victory over Lyon and Paris have bounced back quite effectively from the disappointment at Anfield. I’ll hopefully see you in the next few days with a review of the slaughtering of Lyon.