Paris Saint-Germain secured what was ultimately a comfortable victory over Angers in Ligue 1 on Wednesday night, with Lionel Messi scoring a fine goal on his first club appearance since winning the Word Cup last month on top of an early strike from Hugo Ekitike.
Seeking to bounce back from a first defeat of the season against Lens in their last league game, PSG started brightly and it took only a few minutes for Ekitike’s opener.
The youngster quickly made the most of his opportunity in Kylian Mbappe’s absence by expertly guiding a low cross from impressive right wing-back Nordi Mukiele into the bottom corner.
Aside from a slightly hairy moment that saw Gianluigi Donnarumma come flying out of his goal, only for Juan Bernat to decide to take control of the situation, PSG remained dominant in possession. But it was a set-piece that gave them their next clear chance. Messi floated a ball into the box from a free-kick on the left that Sergio Ramos dived towards to force Paul Bernardoni into a top reflex save.
As PSG again threatened to go through the gears just over half an hour in, Bernardoni wasn’t to know that the offside flag had been raised when he flung himself to his left to parry from Messi.
The second half began in more of the same way and Bernardoni again made saves that ultimately counted for nothing, this time a double stop from the advancing Mukiele. Finally, a Bernardoni save that did count for something just shy of the hour mark from Ekitike’s low shot to the near post.
PSG’s narrow lead was precarious by its very nature. But when Angers created a rare chance to pull level, Abdallah Sima could only blaze well off target from a great position in the penalty area. The hosts seemed to have fallen flat since by then and it gave Angers belief as they began to venture forward more consistently in the hope of an equaliser.
That hope was eventually extinguished by Messi, who had been relatively quiet by his own standards until then. With under 20 minutes to go, the seven-time Ballon d’Or came to life in a sharp and intricate move with Ekitike and Mukiele on the edge of the box, the latter laying it into his path for a calm finish. An erroneous flag initially went up, but VAR intervened to ensure it stood.
The otherwise anonymous Neymar was marginally offside when he lashed the ball into the net on the spin. VAR again checked but the assistant referee was correct this time.
There was still time for Bernardoni to make a couple more top saves, first tipping over a Neymar free-kick and then flying to his right to divert what would have been a deserved headed goal from Mukiele at a stoppage time corner.
GK: Gianluigi Donnarumma – 5/10 – Didn’t have much to do but still didn’t look all that convincing.
CB: Marquinhos – 7/10 – Hardly gave the ball and not really tested without it.
CB: Sergio Ramos – 7/10 – Nearly scored a first half diving header. Carried the ball forward in the build up to the killer second goal. Defensively sound.
CB: Danilo Pereira – 6/10 – Angers’ very few chance came from his side.
RM: Nordi Mukiele – 9/10 – Had a lot of space to run into on the right. Two fine assists and only denied a goal of his own by a great save.
CM: Fabian Ruiz – 6/10 – Near flawless in position, but didn’t do as much as his midfield partner in terms of creating or winning it back.
CM: Vitinha – 8/10 – Great on both sides of the ball.
LM: Juan Bernat – 6/10 – Functional up and down the left.
AM: Lionel Messi – 7/10 – Not his most influential performance until suddenly bursting into life to score and seal the result with just 20 minutes to go. The perfect way to return.
AM: Neymar – 5/10 – Disappointingly quiet until the final 15 minutes.
ST: Hugo Ekitike – 8/10 – Taking the early chance was important for his confidence stepping in for Mbappe. Well-taken goal to break the deadlock. Had other opportunities and played an important role to help create Messi’s strike.
SUB: Warren Zaire-Emery (79′ for Ruiz) – 6/10
SUB: Carlos Soler (80′ for Ekitike) – 6/10
SUB: El Chadaille Bitshiabu (86′ for Vitinha) – N/A
Christophe Galtier – 6/10 – Had a number of players missing that would ordinarily start. The team on the pitch lost momentum midway around an hour in, but he opted to try and ride it out rather than attempt to change things up.
GK: Bernardoni (8); RB: Bamba (6), CB: Hountondji (6), CB: Blazic (6), LB: Doumbia (6); RM: Capelle (6), CM: Mendy (5), CM: Bentaleb (6), LM: Abdelli (7); ST: Hunou (6), ST: Sima (5)
Subs: Salama (6), El Melali (6), Boufal (6), Thioub (6), Taibi (5)