French League: At new home, Messi gets taste of new life
Lionel Messi was not a happy man in Paris when he was substituted in the 76th minute of his ‘home’ debut for Paris Saint-Germain in the match against Olympique Lyonnais in the French League on Sunday.
A late Mauro Icardi strike earned PSG a last-gasp 2-1 victory with Messi making limited impact on his Parc des Princes debut.
Icardi headed home from Kylian Mbappe’s cross four minutes into stoppage time after Neymar had levelled with a penalty following Lucas Paqueta’s second-half opener as leaders PSG maintained their perfect record with 18 points.
Messi, in his third appearance for the capital side, hit the woodwork but failed to score and was substituted in the 76th minute with fullback Achraf Hakimi.
Messi stared sharply at coach Mauricio Pochettino and appeared to snub a handshake as he came off. The six-time Ballon d’Or winner, who is still chasing his first PSG goal in his third appearance following his shock move from Barcelona, sat glum-faced on the bench.
As he was coming off, Messi made a gesture with his hands apart as if to say he didn’t understand, and Pochettino attempted an explanation afterward.
“I think we all know we have great players in this 35-man squad. Only 11 can play, we can’t play more. The decisions in the game are made for the good of the team and each player,” Pochettino told reporters.
“Every coach thinks about that. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
“Sometimes players like it and sometimes they don’t. At the end of the day, that’s why we’re here.
“These are decisions that have to be made by the coach. As for his reaction, I asked him how he was, he said he was okay. That was it. That was our exchange.”
All stars on field
Pochettino opted for an attacking line-up with Messi, Neymar, Mbappe and Angel Di Maria in front of a two-man midfield featuring Idrissa Gueye and Ander Herrera while Gianluigi Donnarumma started his second Ligue 1 game after Keylor Navas started in the Champions League.
Messi looked more lively than against Club Brugge on Wednesday, forcing Anthony Lopes to a great save with a low crossed shot on 32 minutes after a clever backheel from Neymar. Four minutes later his 25-metre curled free kick crashed onto the bar.
Lyon went ahead nine minutes into the second half when Karl Toko Ekambi played Paqueta through for the Brazilian to beat Donnarumma at the end of a late run into the area.
It spurred PSG back into action and Neymar, who was close to his best form, was brought down in the box.
The Brazil forward coolly slotted the ball past Lopes to convert the resulting penalty in the 66th minute.
The move to replace Messi with Hakimi seemed to work as PSG were missing the Moroccan’s runs down the right flank.
Lyon coach Peter Bosz replaced Xherdan Shaqiri with Rayan Cherki with the hope of grabbing all three points but it were the hosts who scored the winner when Icardi, who came on for Di Maria in the 82nd minute, found the back of the net.
“It’s a really important victory against a very good Lyon side,” said PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino.
“The team showed their character after conceding the goal and that’s the most important thing. Now we need to work a lot to find our balance.”
Lyon, who made a stuttering start to the season but have been improving recently, are ninth with eight points while Olympique de Marseille moved up to second on 13 points from five games after a convincing 2-0 victory against Stade Rennais.