Lionel Messi got his first goal for Paris Saint-Germain, and his new club got their first win in the Champions League group stage on Tuesday, beating fellow contender Manchester City 2-0 on Matchday 2. After a poor opener in a 1-1 draw at Club Brugge, and with Messi yet to record an assist or goal for his new team, it seemed like only a matter of time before they got their statement performance and Messi got off the mark.
With Idrissa Gueye grabbing a fine winner eight minutes in, PSG were in a comfortable position for much of the first half, but it seemed like they would squander it. It's a surprise that early goal remained the winner as City seemed destined to score. In the second half, City grew into the contest and threatened time and time again, especially down the right, but Gianluigi Donnarumma step up big with numerous saves from tight angles.
And just when it felt like an equalizer could be coming, Messi got free down the right, combined with Kylian Mbappe and finished expertly, without settling the ball, into the upper right corner. Take a look:
It was a deserved result for a clinical PSG, who have resorted to late winners as of late. Despite being out-shot 18-6 and not winning the battle of possession, the hosts managed to largely contain the City attackers, get a bit of luck when they needed it, and get a bit of revenge for last season's semifinals.
The victory moves PSG into first place in Group A with a 1-1-0 record, while City are in third at 1-0-1.
Here are three takeaways from the match:
There is the signature moment from Messi
Maybe that is what will open the floodgates for Messi and PSG. With all eyes on him and even more pressure, Messi had his best performance for the club and looked comfortable. He was everywhere, getting inside, pushing out wide, he often needed just one touch to play a player into space, and he showed City what they are missing by failing to land him.
He ended up playing 90 minutes, completed almost 90 percent of his passes and 93.8 percent in the final third, had just one shot on goal but took it with serious class.
His celebration showed just what it meant to him, and it felt like a potential turning point for a PSG that had been inconsistent so far this season. This is a confidence booster for both the club and him, and now the key will be to keep it rolling as it's only going to get more challenging from here.
City, on paper, deserved more
While PSG walk away with the win, the numbers tell a more complicated story. City finished with an 2.81 expected goals (xG) compared to PSG's 0.46. City had three times as many shots as PSG. But, don't let those numbers fool you, because Guardiola's team didn't come all that close to scoring aside from a crazy few seconds in the first half. After a Raheem Sterling header hit the crossbar, Bernardo Silva had essentially two kind of open looks right in front of an open goal. The first hit the crossbar from like three yards out, and the second went wide. Those two chances combined for an xG of 1.59, more than half of City's total xG. If you add in Sterling's header and the 0.29 xG, that is 1.88 of their total xG that came in just a 10-second span.
It goes without saying just what a wasted opportunity that was. It's hard to even understand how that didn't go in, as it seemed easier to miss than to make. Silva couldn't believe it, and there was no recovering from that as PSG would kill the game off late. A game of inches.
Time for City to commit to a striker?
Leave it up to Pep Guardiola trying to be cute and playing Raheem Sterling as his false nine. He did it with Phil Foden last weekend, but at least he had a striker in there in Gabriel Jesus who got the winner at Chelsea. But in this one, with an attacking trio of Sterling, Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez, they never felt like consistent threats. Gabriel Jesus came on and played just 12 minutes when the game was over, and it was another example of trying to let pace and technical ability take over a team that has pace, technical ability and actual centrally-playing attackers in PSG.
City haven't scored in three of their last nine games leading back to last season. In their previous 23 matches, they had scored in 21 of them.
That striker they need might not be on their roster, but too often as of late we've seen this team go from goal scoring machine to just silent. It's early, but do they really have enough in attack, centrally, to win this thing against the big boys? From the loss to Lyon two seasons ago, to the loss in last year's final and now this, Guardiola has more work to do than he may think.