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Neymar scores as Tuchel wins on maiden Ligue 1 outing

August 14, 2018

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PARIS: Paris St Germain’s Neymar controls the ball during the Ligue 1 match against Caen at the Parc des Princes.—AFP
PARIS: Paris St Germain’s Neymar controls the ball during the Ligue 1 match against Caen at the Parc des Princes.—AFP

PARIS: Neymar scored his first goal for Paris St Germain since February as the French champions kicked off the new Ligue 1 season with a 3-0 defeat of Caen on Sunday.

Earlier, forwards Bertrand Traore and Memphis Depay got on the scoresheet as Olympique Lyonnais beat Amiens SC 2-0.

Neymar, who scored 19 times in 20 league games before fracturing his foot last season, took just 10 minutes to score PSG’s first goal of the season, and teen striker Timothy Weah netted the first of his French league career,

New PSG signing Gianluigi Buffon enjoyed a memorable debut for the club as the veteran goalkeeper, who joined from Juventus in the close season, made two important saves in the first half while coach Thomas Tuchel also made a winning start at the Parc des Princes.

German Tuchel, who replaced Unai Emery on a two-year deal, was without a host of first-team regulars as PSG’s trio of World Cup winners — Kylian Mbappe, Presnel Kimpembe and Alphonse Areola — showed off the trophy to fans before kick-off.

Edinson Cavani and Marco Verratti were also absent as Tuchel handed starts to youngsters Colin Dagba and Stanley N’Soki in defence, and fellow 19-year-old Antoine Bernede in midfield.

After appearing in a 15-minute cameo at the end of last weekend’s 4-0 rout of Monaco in the Trophée des Champions in China, Neymar made a long-awaited return to the line-up in Paris.

On the same pitch where he broke his foot against Marseille six months ago, Neymar ran onto a pass from midfielder Christopher Nkunku and coolly slotted the ball past goalkeeper Brice Samba and into the bottom left corner.

Samba was at fault for the goal after botching a clearance and instead passing straight to Nkunku.

The visitors almost equalised moments later but Buffon made a smart stop from striker Malik Tchokounte’s volley.

But after another mistake, when Caen lost the ball in midfield, winger Angel Di Maria broke down the right and set up midfielder Adrien Rabiot for a tap-in in the 35th.

Buffon saved again, this time near halftime, and smiled after preventing a headed own-goal from PSG captain Thiago Silva.

Neymar, making his first appearance since Brazil’s World Cup quarter-final defeat to Belgium, had a quiet game after his goal and was replaced 10 minutes from time by the 18-year-old Weah.

Samba made another glaring mistake near the end, gifting another goal after failing to properly clear a back pass. Weah, who is the son of Liberia President and former PSG striker George Weah, gleefully stroked the ball home.

“We played a good match with lots of intensity, especially in the first half. In the second half we managed things a bit more because we’re not yet at 100%,” Silva told Canal+.“Some players arrived late (for pre-season) and are not ready, like myself for example. At the end of the match I had lots of cramps, but well done to all the team for the match we played today. We’re going to make more progress.”

DEPAY DELIVERS

At the Groupama Stadium, Burkina Faso forward Traore fired Lyon ahead on 24 minutes when he broke down the right side of the area and sneaked the ball through the legs of Amiens goalkeeper Regis Gurtner.

Nabil Fekir, who came on as a substitute in France’s 4-2 win against Croatia in last month’s World Cup final, was not included in the Lyon squad having only returned to training on Monday.

Bruno Genesio’s side coped without their captain as Dutch star Depay made the points safe with a terrific 20-yard free-kick on 75 minutes.

The Netherlands forward whipped the ball from the left into the top right corner to seal a comfortable victory.

Also Sunday, Strasbourg won 2-0 at Bordeaux.

Strasbourg played most of the game with an extra player after Brazilian defender Pablo was sent off in the 13th minute for pulling back forward Ludovic Ajorque as he ran through on goal.

The Alsace side made the pressure count in the 68th through a goal from midfielder Ibrahima Sissoko, and striker Nuno Da Costa struck 10 minutes later.

Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2018