PSG's Neymar-Mbappe-Cavani trident makes quite a first impression at Metz
METZ, France — Paris Saint-Germain made it five wins from their first five Ligue 1 fixtures for the first time ever thanks to an Edinson Cavani double and goals from Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Lucas Moura in a flattering 5-1 win over Metz at Stade Saint-Symphorien. However, until Metz’s Benoit Assou-Ekotto received a second-half red card, manager Unai Emery’s PSG side were struggling to break down their resolute hosts.
Mbappe. The France international hit the ground running with PSG and grabbed a debut goal and an assist.
New system. Fans have been crying out for Emery to change the formation and try something other than the possession-based 4-3-3. The Spaniard experimented in Metz, and although the 5-1 final score was extremely flattering, the new system functioned well in attack.
Continued momentum. PSG’s start to the season had been very good before the international break, and the men from the capital picked up where they left off to open up a provisional three-point lead at the summit of Le Championnat.
Assou-Ekotto. Until the former Cameroon international’s harsh dismissal 11 minutes after half-time, it looked as if Metz were going to frustrate PSG. Referee Sebastien Desiage got his decision wrong and Les Parisiens consequently were allowed to run away with it thanks to their unstoppable firepower.
Sloppy chances. Before Assou-Ekotto was sent off, Emmanuel Riviere could and should have scored his second goal after a silly error from PSG goalkeeper Alphonse Areola. Riviere’s first-half equaliser for Metz was sloppy from the French capital outfit’s point of view and they should have been punished further.
Late substitutions. With his team comfortably ahead with 20 minutes to go, it should not have taken Emery another six minutes to make his first change. Certain players were below their best and could have used more of a breather after being fielded despite international action just a few days before.
Manager rating out of 10
6 — Emery’s starting XI was more than strong enough to get the job done, especially in attack. However, it took Assou-Ekotto’s red card for that strength to tell and despite a refreshing formation change, the midfield lacked balance.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Alphonse Areola, 3 — Although it would be harsh to blame him for Riviere’s first-half leveller, the Frenchman would have deservedly received the blame had Metz taken the lead early in the second half after an inexplicable attempt at a headed pass while under pressure. The youth academy graduate had little to do but failed to get the basics right and was fortunate to get away with it this time.
DF Thomas Meunier, 5 — It was not the Belgium international’s finest performance but he did make up for his role in Metz’s first-half equaliser — losing out to Mathieu Dossevi — by teeing up Lucas’ late effort.
DF Marquinhos, 6 — It was a solid showing from the Brazilian overall, which was made easier once Assou-Ekotto was dismissed. He also showed maturity taking over the captaincy when Thiago Motta was substituted.
DF Presnel Kimpembe, 6 — If Assou-Ekotto deserved punishment for his tackle on Mbappe, then Kimpembe should have at least received a booking in the first half. Otherwise, the homegrown youngster was cool, calm and collected alongside Marquinhos in central defence.
DF Yuri Berchiche, 5 — It was a chance for the newcomer to impress in the absence of Layvin Kurzawa and although he did not truly seize it, there were some encouraging signs from the Basque full-back — notably when going forward.
MF Thiago Motta (C), 5 — For the 77 minutes he was on the pitch before being replaced by Giovani Lo Celso, the ageing midfielder looked uncomfortable in Emery’s 4-2-3-1 formation with no deep-lying role to play.
MF Adrien Rabiot, 5 — The France international was not at his best and made some sloppy mistakes, particularly in possession. Replaced by Christopher Nkunku late on, the youth academy graduate should be able to make the midfield part of the 4-2-3-1 work alongside Marco Verratti.
MFG Julian Draxler, 5 — Having looked so good with Germany during the international break, it was a great chance to impress Emery with a starting XI berth seemingly open if the switch to 4-2-3-1 sticks. Draxler did not take this opportunity but he should not be written off after one flat outing.
MF Kylian Mbappe, 7 — A goal and an assist, it was a successful PSG bow for the 18-year-old sensation. Aside from his unnecessary theatrics when fouled by Assou-Ekotto, the Frenchman can be satisfied by his start to life with his hometown club.
MF Neymar, 7 — The Brazilian superstar once again chipped in with a goal and an assist to take him to four of each in a many Ligue 1 appearances. Les Parisiens‘ No. 10 did not look jaded after international duty in South America and linked up well with strike partners Mbappe and Cavani.
FW Edinson Cavani, 6 — The Uruguay international now has seven goals from five league outings so far this season and is the first player since Bordeaux’s Sylvain Wiltord back in 1998-99 to score in each of the first five fixtures in a Championnat term. El Matador could and should have had more but he still continues to chip away at Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s all-time PSG record.
FW Lucas Moura, NR — Sent on in place of Cavani for the final 12 minutes, the Brazilian grabbed himself a scrappy goal.
MF Giovani Lo Celso, NR — Introduced in place of Motta after 77 minutes, playing in one of the two midfield roles, instead of the more advanced berths, stifled his ability to assert any sort of impact.
MF Christopher Nkunku, NR — Only given six minutes as fellow homegrown talent Rabiot’s replacement, Nkunku deserved more of a chance in Metz with the game long decided.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.