The hero on this day was not named Lionel Messi, Neymar or Kylian Mbappe. It was Paris Saint-Germain substitute forward Mauro Icardi who headed home a stoppage-time winner as PSG stayed perfect to start its Ligue season with a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Lyon. The match was the first time that the ‘MNM’ trio — Messi-Neymar-Mbappe — started a match together in front of their fans, but it didn’t exactly go according to plan.
After an eventful and evenly played first half, during which Messi struck the woodwork on a free kick, Lyon took the lead in the second half through Brazilian national teamer Lucas Paqueta and PSG looked in serious trouble. The home team needed a questionable 66th-minute penalty kick to equalize. Neymar earned the spot kick with what looked like a dive in the box and he stepped up to take it himself, converting to tie the match at 1-1.
The match looked destined to finish 1-1 until Mbappe lofted a cross into the Lyon box deep into stoppage time and connected with Icardi, who had come on in the 82nd minute. Icardi met the cross in stride and guided the ball with his forehead inside the far post as the Parc des Princes erupted in celebration. It was a cruel result for a Lyon side that deserved something for its positive approach, going toe-to-toe with PSG and creating a host of chances through wingers Xherdan Shaqiri and Karl Toko-Ekambi.
That goal came without Messi on the field. The Argentine superstar looked to be having trouble with his left knee, but he gave the thumbs-up signal to the bench that he wanted to continue. His manager, Mauricio Pochettino, did not concur and subbed him off anyway in the 76th minute. Messi didn’t seem too happy about it and his exchange with Pochettino will likely overshadow the victory in the postgame.
It’s well documented that Messi wants to play every minute of every game he features in. Taking him off like this is just a silly move from Poch. pic.twitter.com/YRNhEHMQHS
— Alan Feehely (@azulfeehely) September 19, 2021
PSG put together a better performance than its midweek 1-1 Champions League draw in Belgium against Club Brugge, during which the team appeared disjointed, the team imbalanced and the stars out of sync. Against Lyon, PSG’s attacking players didn’t hesitate to go straight at goal when they won the ball. They were decisive with their runs and combinations, and forced Lyon goalkeeper Lopes into several saves.
Pochettino’s other lineup decisions that will come under scrutiny involved leaving summer signings Achraf Hakimi and Georginio Wijnaldum out of the starting lineup. Both came on as late subs. The lineup selection could also have simply amounted to straightforward rotation with another Ligue 1 matchup coming up on Wednesday as PSG puts its perfect record on the line at Metz. But Pochettino did note that playing Thilo Kehrer over Hakimi was about achieving tactical balance on the right wing with attack-minded Angel Di Maria operating on the right flank.
PSG are a perfect 6-0-0 to start the Ligue 1 season and the club sits on top with 18 points and a five-point lead over hard-charging Marseille, which still has a game in hand.