No Neymar, no Kylian Mbappe, no Edinson Cavani. No problem. In the absence of that trio, a man who is part of the furniture at Parc des Princes fired twice against his former employers twice to deservedly earn Carolina Herrera hero of the day.
Angel Di Maria took full advantage of a Real Madrid defence that had make to do without its talisman Sergio Ramos, as PSG performed in a way that suggests a first Champions League crown is by no means unthinkable this season.
With Juan Bernat operating as chief touchline-hugger, Di Maria had the freedom to drift inside and made full use of the liberty. It was Bernat – after a clever flick from Mauro Icardi on his full PSG debut – who found Di Maria in the box, and the Argentine found the net with a snap near-post finish.
The second on the half-hour mark was straight from his personal textbook. The 31-year-old somehow dug out a curling left-footed shot on the edge of the box, which Thibaut Courtois could do nothing about.
His influence didn’t stop there – he should have scored with a dink in the second half before setting up Icardi with a glorious chance. In the coup de grace, he set free Thomas Meunier to make it 3-0 in injury time.
SHOTS – 3
GOALS – 2
COMPLETED DRIBBLES – 4
PASS SUCCESS – 85.3%
PSG have rarely looked anywhere near dynamic enough to win the Champions League, but here they showed they could win without the Neymar/Mbappe/Cavani triumvirate and Di Maria’s instant connection with Icardi is a big reason why.
His countryman’s work-rate and movement drew attention away from Di Maria, and the favour was returned with purpose in the box.
Icardi should have scored when Di Maria squared it to him and similarly when roles were reversed for the failed loft over Courtois. That they left goals on the pitch in an otherwise perfect night should only encourage PSG boss Thomas Tuchel.
If Di Maria is the fourth Beatle in Paris then it’s time to hand Ringo the microphone. His influence on proceedings, even including his diligence in defence, meant that Neymar was not missed one bit from his usual place on the left.
It’ll be interesting to see whether Di Maria’s role is diminished once Neymar returns from his ban. In fact, the return of the star trio could end up giving Tuchel a headache he’d rather not have.
Atletico Madrid fought back from two-goals down to share the spoils with Juventus in an engaging Champions League opener at Wanda Metropolitano.
A tense Group D-contest exploded into life after the interval. Colombia winger Juan Cuadrado– a surprise starter – utilised dancing feet and a sublime curled finish on 48 minutes, with France midfielder Blaise Matuidi heading in the second past the hour mark.
Roared on by an impassioned crowd and head coach Diego Simeone, the La Liga challengers refused to surrender. Montenegro centre-back Stefan Savic headed in on the line during the 70th minute and substitute Hector Herrera rose highest from another set-piece on the 90th minute to break Juve hearts in a rollercoaster 2-2 draw.
Here are the player ratings:
ATLETICO MADRID (4-4-2)
Jan Oblak 6: Could only stand back and admire Cuadrado’s sublime finish. Matuidi header was far too strong.
Kieran Trippier 7: Kept Ronaldo deathly quiet, although cross for the second came from England right-back’s side. Cleared one off the line from Matuidi.
Stefan Savic 6: Provided hope with a close-range header, from which he was unmarked throughout. Caught underneath advancing Matuidi for the killer second, however.
Jose Gimenez 6: Saw several opportunities come to nothing. Savic managed to get the goal from his header. Teamwork.
Renan Lodi 5: Was befuddled by Cuadrado’s smart feet for the first. Then conducted himself poorly when trying to get same player dismissed for a push.
Koke 6: Economical, as always, with the ball. Ensured Atleti didn’t lose their heads from two-goals down.
Thomas Partey 6: More involved than partner Saul. Couldn’t, truly, get better of Khedira and Matuidi.
Saul Niguez 5: Spain dynamo short-circuited on the night. Game utterly passed him by.
Thomas Lemar 5: That’s five run-outs in all competitions without a goal or assist. Nowhere near good enough.
Joao Felix 6: A big threat in the first half, faded after that. Produced a trademark mazy run and threatened with a header.
Diego Costa 5: Might as well stayed at home. Produced zero attempts on goal. Only noteworthy incident was when he dived into Danilo and Brazil right-back got injured.
Angel Correa 5: Lemar set a low bar. Correa could only match it.
Hector Herrera N/A: Mexico midfielder became the toast of the Wanda when he rose highest to level upon 90 minutes.
Vitolo N/A: Threatened with one rasping shot.
Wojciech Szczesny 7: Alert early doors to stop Felix’s low effort. No other real involvements. Let down by defence for Savic header.
Danilo 7: Formed a quartet of ex-Real Madrid players. Dominated his flank – which Los Blancos fans wouldn’t have expected.
Leonardo Bonucci 7: Bravely snubbed out Costa threat, taking a whack in fifth minute. What a long ball to set Cuadrado’s stunner into motion.
Matthijs de Ligt 6: Could see understanding developing with Bonucci and Juve’s approach. Was chasing shadows, however, for Savic goal.
Alex Sandro 8: Endless energy and punishing accuracy saw him delightfully tee-up Matuidi’s goal. Physical presence when asked to defend.
Sami Khedira 7: The Juve tifosi may yet learn to love Khedira. Did a solid job in the Spanish capital.
Miralem Pjanic 6: Threaded things together in midfield. Essential to Juve edging possession.
Blaise Matuidi 7: Horrific, miscued shot in first half was forgotten after break when he charged forwards to head in. You didn’t see that under Massimiliano Allegri.
Juan Cuadrado 7: Symbolised Juve’s night – quiet first half, exceptional second half. Broke his duck for 2019/20 in some style. Lost cool with Lodi.
Gonzalo Higuain 7: An early symbol of Maurizio Sarri’s reign. Ran himself into the ground. Looked more mobile than he did at Madrid, as a much-younger man.
Cristiano Ronaldo 6: Incidental, rather than instrumental. Still, fed Sandro through to assist second. Boos didn’t bother him. Almost found bottom corner deep into injury time.
Rodrigo Bentancur 6: Jockeyed Felix all the way during one run.
Paulo Dybala N/A: Argentina forward did more defensively, than offensively.
Aaron Ramsey N/A: Late debut for the ex-Arsenal midfielder.
Chelsea winger Willian has defended Ross Barkley after his missed penalty ensured that the London side walked away without a single point in their Champions League opener against Valencia.
The Spanish side emerged 1-0 winners in what was a bland encounter at the Stamford Bridge. Chelsea failed to create many chances, but were handed a life-line in the 87th minute.
Daniel Wass was penalised for a handball in the box and VAR involvement saw Chelsea handed a penalty.
Barkley stepped up to take the kick but rocked the cross-bar with his spot-kick. Willian appeared to have requested to take the penalty but Barkley insisted he took it himself. Chelsea boss Frank Lampard admitted that the midfielder is the designated penalty-taker and will continue to be so.
Willian too backed the 25-year-old and explained that it could happen to anyone.
“He was confident about taking it and I asked to take it too,” Willian said, according to Goal.
“But he was confident. He ended up missing it. That could happen to me or any other player, like Jorginho who also takes the penalties.
“It is important he keeps his head up. When you win, you win together and when you lose, you lose together too.”
The Brazilian is aware that Chelsea need to elevate their level to compete in the Champions League.
“We expected a positive result,” Willian said.
“We expected to start at home with a victory, but unfortunately we lost it. We have five games left to qualify. I think we have a chance, of course.
“We have to improve and we have to keep our heads up and keep working. We have everything in front of us.”