Sunday, August 6, 2017
Fans hail Neymar as PSG stroll to opening win
PARIS, France -- Paris Saint-Germain celebrated the arrival of Brazilian superstar Neymar in festive style with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Amiens in their Ligue 1 opener on Saturday.
The Parc des Princes in Paris reverberated to the sound of Neymar's name chanted over and again before kick off as the world's most expensive player was presented to fans.
"Paris is magic," said Neymar as he vowed to "win lots of trophies" for his mega-rich employers following his 222-million-euro ($264m) transfer from Barcelona.
Neymar has been bought to bring Champions League glory to PSG's Qatari owners and on this evidence he won't be needed for humdrum domestic matters as the newly-promoted visitors were nonchalantly dismissed.
"This (signing) shows the ambition from both sides: we're trying to improve and for Neymar this bet is also to take a step forward," said PSG coach Unai Emery.
"Our ambition is to get closer to winning trophies and the Champions League is one of those."
Last season's top scorer Edinson Cavani opened the scoring three minutes before the break with Javier Pastore notching the second 10 minutes from time of a one-sided affair.
"There was a great atmosphere, the fans pushed us to win and I hope they will continue to do so the whole season," added Emery.
"We controlled the match with our possession and chances.
"If there had been more clarity, we could have scored more goals and had an easier win."
Amiens had given notice of the extent of their ambition right from kick-off, rugby-style pumping the ball deep into PSG territory and out of play for a throw-in.
Thereafter they spent most of the match camped on the edge of their own area.
Six minutes in and PSG carved Amiens open with slick passing to put Cavani in on goal, but the Uruguayan slipped his shot just past the post.
Like Arsenal in the Premier League, PSG were often guilty of over-playing the ball, and when Angel Di Maria slotted into an empty net after a mesmerising move, it was ruled out for Cavani having been offside when playing the penultimate pass.
There was a festive atmosphere and an almost casual confidence amongst the PSG players that the goals would come as they wove intricate patterns around the pitch, multiplying the tricks and flicks as Amiens' overworked defenders held on grimly.
On a rapier counter-attack, Di Maria's cross was cut out as he tried to pick out a return pass to Pastore rather than shoot himself.
- Amiens carved open -
With PSG's embarrassment of attacking riches closely guarded, it was midfielder Adrien Rabiot who found space from Cavani's pass but his shot was blocked by a sliding Prince Gouano.
Full-back Leyvan Kurzawa was next to go close with a header that sailed just over.
And so it was Cavani who showed them how it was done, controlling a cross from league debutant Dani Alves on his thigh and firing home low left-footed.
Such was PSG's ease they could even afford to replace captain Thiago Silva, who had a muscular problem, with Presnel Kimpembe at half-time.
Still they carved Amiens open at will, with Di Maria, whose place in the team could come under threat from Neymar, having a lob caught by goalkeeper Regis Gurtner before another chip hit the side-netting.
Cavani should have doubled his and PSG's tally on 75 minutes from Pastore's sumptuous pass but shot straight at Gurtner.
PSG may have been toiling at times, but when the second came 10 minutes from time it was clinical, Marco Verratti releasing Cavani to tee up Pastore for a simple tap-in.
Later on Saturday, Lyon thrashed newly-promoted Strasbourg 4-0, with Nabil Fekir and debutant Mariano Diaz both scoring twice in OL's first game since the departure of Alexandre Lacazette to Arsenal.
Nice, who edged out Ajax on away goals in midweek to set up a Champions League play-off tie against Napoli, were beaten 1-0 at Saint-Etienne.
Champions Monaco had got the Ligue 1 season underway on Friday night, coming back from behind twice to beat Toulouse 3-2 at home.