Kylian Mbappe impressed for PSG, but stiffer challenges await in Europe
METZ, France — Kylian Mbappe made an ideal start to life with Paris Saint-Germain, scoring one and setting up another as the French capital outfit ran out flattering 5-1 winners away at FC Metz in Ligue 1 on Friday.
The France international was involved in the turning point of the match when he was on the receiving end of a hefty but fair tackle from the hosts’ Benoit Assou-Ekotto, for which the former Cameroon international saw red 11 minutes into the second half.
Mbappe, 18, rolled theatrically after Assou-Ekotto made contact but also got the ball and referee Sebastien Desiage was fooled into dismissing the Metz man and from then on, there was only going to be one winner.
Before that flash point, the former Monaco star was involved in Edinson Cavani’s opener after 31 minutes at Stade Saint-Symphorien.
Neymar fed the ball through for the Uruguay international and either Mbappe or Cavani could have finished it off after both lost their men with well-timed runs.
The new boy stepped aside for Cavani, though, and the South American finished it off with his left foot after taking it wide of home goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima — who was unlucky to be on the receiving end of five goals with an acrobatic individual performance.
Cavani and Mbappe combined and almost made it 2-0 minutes later — Les Parisiens‘ No. 29 located his teammate with an exquisite right-footed outside of the boot cross but the No. 9’s downward header took much of the power away from the effort and the flying Kawashima was able to push the danger away.
PSG went on to concede an equaliser to Emmanuel Riviere moments later and the same Metz player could and should have put the hosts in front when Alphonse Areola inexplicably gifted him a golden chance, which was blazed over.
Mbappe had been relatively quiet since the leveller but his next involvement saw Assou-Ekotto handed his marching orders.
With one extra man, PSG’s star-studded attack turned the screw and Mbappe needed just three minutes to make that numerical advantage tell.
The teenager from Bondy’s lofted pass was destined for Neymar but a defensive intervention put it right back in front of Mbappe and he fired home first time from the edge of the box.
With a goal to his name and Unai Emery’s men now starting to push forward, Mbappe went close to his second and PSG’s third but was blocked on the line.
Neymar made it 3-1 shortly afterwards and just six minutes later, Cavani had his second and it was Mbappe with the assist.
The youngster did not know much about it as the men from the capital were aided by some comedy Metz defending but the last touch before the Uruguayan’s messy finish came from his strike partner.
There was one sensational intricate exchange between Mbappe and Neymar before Lucas Moura completed the scoring at 5-1 but that combination between the French starlet and the Brazilian superstar ultimately came to nothing.
Aside from his antics in contributing towards Assou-Ekotto’s expulsion, Mbappe can be pleased with his first steps as a PSG and he will be relieved to have alleviated some early expectations by opening his account with the Ligue 1 giants.
However, Mbappe only really came to the fore once Metz were reduced to 10 men and although he did score the goal to make it 2-1 to the visitors, the home side crumbled after that and it was no longer a contest.
Tuesday’s Champions League trip to Glasgow to face Celtic will be a much tougher task and Mbappe, Neymar and Cavani will be expected to show better than they did in Metz.
PSG’s Group B-opening encounter with the Bhoys should provide more intensity over 90 minutes than their latest success in Le Championnat and the famous Celtic Park atmosphere will be more intimidating than the Stade Saint-Symphorien was.
Mbappe and his new partners in crime will know that, though, and should be ready to step it up now that it is time to get underway in continental competition, which is where they will be judged as an attacking unit.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.