Neymar, Cavani get on same page, propel PSG to rout of Montpellier
Paris Saint-Germain provisionally restored their 11-point lead at the top of Ligue 1 with a 4-0 win over Montpellier on Saturday.
Edinson Cavani got things started for Unai Emery’s men with his 157th goal across all competitions — a new all-time club record — and then Neymar got in on the act with two (one penalty, which was the 2,000th PSG goal at Parc des Princes), as well as Angel Di Maria.
With his 157th goal in PSG colours, Cavani is now the French capital outfit’s all-time leading scorer and the issue of his record-breaking goal has now been put to bed.
Since his arrival in 2013, the Uruguay international has worked towards such a feat and deserves his moment in the spotlight but cannot rest on his laurels now — unlikely anyway.
On that note, it must be said that that the chemistry between Cavani and Neymar felt much, much better during the Montpellier match after the recent Dijon penalty incident.
Whether it was a reaction to being whistled for not handing El Matador the spot kick that time or a riposte to the recent speculation surrounding his future, the Brazilian superstar looked more invested in his teammates — notably the No. 9 — than usual.
Saturday was not only about Cavani and Neymar, though, PSG’s attack cracked a previously watertight Montpellier defence and Les Parisiens‘ inflicted a first four-goal loss of this season on La Paillade.
Although there were one or two small negatives, nothing was serious enough to merit talking down a 4-0 win over a very solid, if unthreatening, opponent.
Manager rating out of 10
7 — Unai Emery went with a strong starting XI, albeit a vulnerable defence with Layvin Kurzawa included, and was rewarded with a convincing win over a normally competitive Montpellier side under Michel Der Zakarian.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Alphonse Areola, 6 — The youth academy graduate appeared to benefit from being replaced by Kevin Trapp midweek after his mistake away at Lyon. The Frenchman put in a much simpler and more effective performance here, even if Montpellier rarely threatened seriously.
DF Thomas Meunier, 7 — The Belgium international was better than he was against Guingamp in the Coupe de France on Wednesday and assisted Di Maria’s second-half goal.
DF Thiago Silva, 6 — The captain enjoyed a solid first half and contributed towards Cavani’s opener and record goal, but the Brazil international was then forced off at half-time with an injury scare.
DF Presnel Kimpembe, 7 — The homegrown Frenchman put in another confident and measured display alongside both Silva and Marquinhos.
DF Layvin Kurzawa, 5 — The France international was better defensively than he was in Lyon but less effective going forward in an average display — good going, considering his usual efforts.
MF Giovani Lo Celso, 6 — The Argentine looked at home in deep-lying midfield, certainly more so than he did against Lyon last weekend.
MF Julian Draxler, 6 — The German enjoyed a lively start and was generally involved, winning the penalty for Neymar’s first before he was forced off injured after 66 minutes.
MF Adrien Rabiot, 7 — The Frenchman was mature and metronomic without having to be monstrous as PSG’s midfield bossed Montpellier’s midfield unit and assisted Cavani’s record strike.
FW Angel Di Maria, 7 — The Argentina international added to his two goals and an assist against Dijon with a neat goal to make it 3-0 after 70 minutes.
FW Edinson Cavani, 7 — Although he was eclipsed by Neymar in what he did on the pitch, it was the Uruguayan’s day because of his record 157th PSG goal — which earned him a booking and a handshake from referee Frank Schneider after his topless celebration. The former Napoli man added an assist, for Neymar, and a touch of class to his outing by giving the Brazilian the first-half penalty in a big-hearted gesture.
FW Neymar, 8 — The Brazil international scored two goals and was involved in the build-up to Cavani’s opener. Les Parisiens’ iconic No. 10 looked invested in his teammates and his relationship with his fellow South American looks like it might have turned a significant corner.
DF Marquinhos, 6 — The Brazilian replaced compatriot Silva as captain at half-time and was equally as solid during the second 45.
MF Javier Pastore, 6 — The Argentina international may well have made his last appearance in PSG colours and if he has, his pass to Meunier in the build-up to Di Maria’s goal was sublime, as he made the most of the final 23 minutes after replacing Draxler.
MF Christopher Nkunku, NR — Sent on for Rabiot after 76 minutes, the youth academy graduate picked up where his fellow homegrown Frenchman left off in the middle.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.