Paris Saint-Germain celebrated the arrival of Brazilian superstar Neymar in festive style with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Amiens in their Ligue 1 opener on Saturday.
The Parc des Princes in Paris reverberated to the sound of Neymar’s name chanted over and again before kick off as the world’s most expensive player was presented to fans.
“Paris is magic,” said Neymar as he vowed to “win lots of trophies” for his mega-rich employers following his €222 million ($264m) transfer from Barcelona.
Neymar has been bought to bring Champions League glory to PSG’s Qatari owners and on this evidence he won’t be needed for humdrum domestic matters as the newly-promoted visitors were nonchalantly dismissed.
Last season’s top scorer Edinson Cavani opened the scoring three minutes before the break with Javier Pastore notching the second 10 minutes from time of a one-sided affair.
Amiens had given notice of the extent of their ambition right from kick-off, rugby-style pumping the ball straight deep into PSG territory and out of play for a throw-in.
Thereafter they spent most of the match camped on the edge of their own area.
Six minutes in and PSG carved Amiens open with slick passing to put Cavani in on goal, but the Uruguayan slipped his shot just past the post.
Like Arsenal in the Premier League, PSG were often guilty of over-playing the ball, and when Angel Di Maria slotted into an empty net after a mesmerising move, it was ruled out for Cavani having been offside when playing the penultimate pass.
There was a festive atmosphere and an almost casual confidence amongst the PSG players that the goals would come as they wove intricate patterns around the pitch, multiplying the tricks and flicks as Amiens’ overworked defenders held on grimly.
On a rapier counter-attack, Di Maria’s cross was cut out as he tried to pick out a return pass to Pastore rather than shoot himself.
AMIENS CARVED OPEN
With PSG’s embarrassment of attacking riches closely guarded, it was midfielder Adrien Rabiot who found space from Cavani’s pass but his shot was blocked by a sliding Prince Gouano.
Full-back Leyvan Kurzawa was next to go close with a header that sailed just over.
And so it was Cavani who showed them how it was done, controlling a cross from league debutant Dani Alves on his thigh and firing home low left-footed.
Such was PSG’s ease they could even afford to replace captain Thiago Silva with Presnel Kimpembe at half-time.
Still they carved Amiens open at will, with Di Maria, whose place in the team could come under threat from Neymar, having a lob caught by goalkeeper Regis Gurtner before another chip hit the side-netting.
Amiens could have put a spanner in the works as substitute Charly Charrier got free on the right but on the stretch he couldn’t direct his shot on target.
Cavani should have doubled his and PSG’s tally on 75 minutes from Pastore’s sumptuous pass but shot straight at Gurtner.
PSG may have been toiling at times, but when the second came 10 minutes from time it was clinical, Marco Verratti releasing Cavani to tee up Pastore for a simple tap-in.
Champions Monaco had got the Ligue 1 season underway on Friday night, coming back from behind twice to beat Toulouse 3-2 at home.
Arsenal and Chelsea will meet in the Community Shield on Sunday at a sold-out Wembley Stadium.
Here are five things to watch out for.
Alvaro Morat’s arrival from Real Madrid has attracted all the headlines, but it is the bright young Belgian who has been making them during pre-season with three goals in Chelsea’s three games so far – including a brace as the Blues breezed to a 3-0 success against Arsenal in the International Champions Cup in Beijing just 15 days ago.
The 23-year-old was marginalised as Diego Costa’s understudy so it will interesting to see if he gets his chance under Antonio Conte this season. Conte has already stated Morata will be the main central striker, so Batshuayi might have to shine from the flank.
Sunday’s game will be only Chelsea’s fourth of the summer – following run-outs against Internazionale, Bayern Munich and Arsenal. By contrast this will be the Gunners’ seventh, while Premier League rivals Manchester United (7) and Liverpool (7) have all played considerably more.
The champions don’t have the easiest start to their title defence, with Tottenham and Everton two of their opening three opponents, while they face a physical test on the opening day away to Burnley. Sunday’s game will invariably help, but Conte might feel his side are still short.
The traditional curtain-raiser to the Premier League season is always a showcase for each side’s new signings, and sunday will be a chance for many fans to get a first glimpse of Alexandre Lacazette and Alvaro Morata.
Morata will replace Diego Costa and aim to finally grow into a prolific goalscorer at Stamford Bridge.
Lacazette, meanwhile, arrives hoping to continue his fine goalscoring record in France. Gunners fans hope he can be the touch of class up front they’ve been desperately missing.
The Gunners switched from Arsene Wenger’s traditional 4-3-3 system to three at the back in March and the move helped the club to a second FA Cup final victory in three years.
And the Frenchman confirmed Arsenal will continue with a 3-4-3 formation. It’s been utilised throughout preseason to varying degrees of success – four wins have been earned in six outings.
There will be a trial of the ‘ABBA’ system if the match goes to a penalty shootout Sunday.
The order of penalties would see the the team going first in the shootout taking one spot-kick before their opponents take two in succession.
Each side would then continues to take two in a row until a winner is found.
Similar to the switch of serve during tennis tie-breaks, the format is being experimented worldwide in an attempt to address the fact teams which take the first kick in a shootout currently have a 60 per cent chance of winning.
Neymar received a hero’s welcome from Paris Saint-Germain fans at their Parc des Princes home on Saturday as he vowed to win “lots of trophies” following his world record transfer.
The 25-year-old was presented to fans on the pitch ahead of their opening Ligue 1 match of the season at home to Amiens, telling fans: “Thank you! I’m very happy, I’m delighted to be here for this new challenge.”
The Brazilian, who cost a staggering 222 million euros ($264m), then delighted fans by running over to the end where PSG’s most hardcore supporters converge and launched his jersey into the throng of delirious ‘Ultras’.
It was the only action they would see from Neymar, though, as his international transfer certificate wasn’t lodged in time with the French league to allow him to make his debut against Amiens.
But the club had already started to recoup a part of their massive outlay on Neymar on Friday as he was unveiled to the press.
More than 10,000 shorts were sold in a single day, bringing in around 1 million euros.
Neymar Jr presentation at the parc des princes https://t.co/NwUh94FSjL— PSG Officiel (@PSG_inside) August 5, 2017