Paris Saint-Germain got their Champions League challenge off to a flying start by comfortably downing Real Madrid 3-0 at Parc des Princes on Wednesday night.
The pitch was filled with superstars despite some big-name absentees, but by far the biggest contribution came from a player who had been in danger of becoming a forgotten man.
And Angel Di Maria’s reminder of his talents has to be the first of our talking points to arise from the game.
DI MARIA SERVES A REMINDER
Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani, Julian Draxler: the list of exciting attacking talent at the disposal of PSG boss Thomas Tuchel is long and mouth-watering… and they are just the players who were unavailable for this fixture.
Despite having so many big names missing, Tuchel was still able to call upon a former Madrid star who probably deserves to be ranked among the world’s best attacking players of the last decade – but who for some reason is rarely classed in that category:l Di Maria.
The hard-working winger, who has totalled more than 500 appearances for Madrid, Manchester United, PSG and Argentina since his move to Santiago Bernabeu in 2010, has suffered a steady erosion to his status at the Parc des Princes in the past couple of years, and will have known he was only starting on Wednesday night because many others were absent.
But his action-packed performance will have left Tuchel wondering whether that really should be the case. Not only did he score twice to fire his team to victory – a well-taken strike at the near post from a left-wing cross and a glorious curling shot from 20 yards – but he also never stopped running up and down the left wing, giving his team everything in attack and defence.
The only shame was that he couldn’t complete a fairy tale hat-trick, lobbing a great chance over the bar.
HAZARD FAILS TO SHINE
With both sides beset by injury problems, a number of new faces were given the opportunity to shine as Keylor Navas, Pablo Sarabia and Mauro Icardi lined up for PSG while the visitors featured Eder Militao, Ferland Mendy and Eden Hazard.
Of those players, Hazard has prompted the most excitement among his news fans, with his summer arrival from Chelsea giving Real fans reason to believe they have a player capable of becoming their new Galactico superstar.
Hazard showed a few flashes of his talent, coming close to an equaliser with a low strike which fizzed just wide of the right-hand post after 15 minutes. But on the whole he was a marginal presence and appears to be still finding his feet – and perhaps his fitness – after joining a new club and then enduring a month on the sidelines through injury.
He got worse as the game went on, with his second-half display typified by a comical piece of play when he ran into the penalty area and tried to cut back onto his right foot but fell over, and shortly after that he was replaced.
There will be a lot more to come from Hazard at Real Madrid, but this was a full debut to forget.
BIG PROBLEMS FOR ZIDANE
Never mind the quality of individual performances, this was a massively concerning team display by Real Madrid, who were lucky to get nil as they consistently found themselves under siege in defence and were totally toothless in attack, not mustering a single shot on target.
All over the pitch, Madrid were inferior to their opponents in terms of determination and quality, and the gulf in collective shape and structure was often startling to behold.
In that sense, it was a resounding tactical victory for Tuchel over Zinedine Zidane, who continues to look anything but convincing in his efforts to mould an effective team out of his undeniably talented pieces.
The nadir of the night came in stoppage time, when PSG were confident enough and Real were dishevelled enough to allow the home team’s two full-backs, Juan Bernat and Thomas Meunier, to waltz through the entire defence for the former to tee up the latter for the final goal.
That moment was a bizarre and alarming illustration of just how much the visitors were struggling, and Zidane must find answers quickly – his team’s next game sends them to La Liga leaders Sevilla on Sunday.
A drab first half was followed by a thrilling second as Atletico Madrid came from behind to draw 2-2 against visitors Juventus in the Champions League.
Juan Cuadrado’s stunning strike three minutes into the second period broke the deadlock, before Blaise Matuidi headed home an Alex Sandro cross in the 65th minute.
However, Stefan Savic pulled one back five minutes later and Hector Herrera met a Kieran Trippier corner in the final minute to secure a draw for the hosts.
JUAN MOMENT OF BRILLIANCE
Cuadrado’s presence in the starting XI would’ve drawn groans from some Juventus fans, especially since it came at the expense of more dynamic options like Federico Bernardeschi or Paulo Dybala, and not Danilo at right-back who was initially an injury doubt.
The intention was clear. The Wanda Metropolitano is a difficult place to go to and Cuadrado’s industry would lend the attack-minded Danilo support on the right flank when defending against Thomas Lemar and Renan Lodi.
The 31-year-old did his job well, tracking back winning possession on numerous occasions. But his spectacular strike early in the second half was his greatest contribution.
Having been picked out well by Gonzalo Higuain, squared up Lodi, cut inside onto his weaker side and curled his effort past a hapless Jan Oblak.
His strike breathed life into what was a dull affair up until then and forced Atletico to open up in an effort to respond.
TWO POINTS DROPPED
This wasn’t an entirely convincing display from Juventus.
The Bianconeri looks like a side that’s still coming together. At the moment, they find themselves somewhere between embracing Maurizio Sarri’s philosophy and adjusting it in order to extract the best out of Cristiano Ronaldo.
It’s a tricky balancing act and a dangerous one against top opposition. Juve’s left side of defence was regularly left exposed with Ronaldo seemingly excused from attempting any sort of defensive action.
The back four shuffled across to try and cover the space but that meant the marauding Lodi on the opposite flank was afforded to room to drive into as well.
Fortunately for Juventus, Atletico never fully capitalised on this glaring weakness in the first half despite being on top. Together, Trippier and Lodi whipped in a total of 17 crosses and the Englishman finished with seven key passes but the forwards were unable to muster enough efforts on goal.
The home side eventually drew level, first pulling one back from a well-worked free-kick before a late corner was nodded in from Herrera. But three points were up for grabs and Diego Simeone will rue his side’s lack of aggression in the opening 45 minutes when they should’ve made Juve pay.
ATLETI SURVIVE RONALDO
Credit where it’s due, Trippier contained Ronaldo reasonably well without really being sucked into one-on-one battles.
He ushered the Portuguese away from threatening positions and must’ve been a huge relief for Simeone.
The former Real Madrid talisman has been the scourge of Atleti over the years, registering 25 goals and 13 assists in 33 games against an uncompromising unit that prides itself on defensive solidity.
He’s also bagged four hat-tricks against Los Rojiblancos, including one last season which knocked them out of the Champions League – the fifth time he was involved in their elimination from Europe [including two triumphs over them in the finals].
Despite restricting him all game, Simeone must’ve had a familiar sinking feeling for a fleeting moment at the death. Deep into injury time, Ronaldo produced a bit of magic.
Jinking his way inside from the touchline, he worked an opening inside the box and his fierce low drive fizzed just wide of the far post.
Close. But Atleti survived.
Angel Di Maria was the star man as Paris Saint-Germain easily overcame Real Madrid 3-0 in a battle of big guns in the French capital.
The Argentine winger grabbed the first two goals and sparked his side with a hugely energetic performance, easily outshining the stars within the visiting ranks – including Eden Hazard, who disappointed on his full debut.
Find out how everyone fared with our full player ratings.
Keylor Navas 6. A quiet night against his former team, with his old teammates sending their efforts off target.
Thomas Meunier 8. Was allowed plenty of space to attack down the right and exploited it, including a stoppage time goal.
Thiago Silva 7. Dealt with everything that came his way with calm assurance, rarely looking like he even had to run.
Presnel Kimpembe 7. Powerful and committed, he complemented Thiago perfectly and made some big interventions.
Juan Bernat 8. Made a great run and cross to create the opener, typifying an all-action display which really impressed.
Idrissa Gueye 9. Magnificent. Worked hard to close down space and attacked the box when he could, a complete display.
Marquinhos 7. Very smooth at the base of his team’s midfield, establishing control which was rarely threatened.
Marco Verratti 7. Provided some classy touches and was steely off the ball, helping his team dominate the central areas.
Pablo Sarabia 7. Former Sevilla man was bright on the right of attack, nearly netting with a low strike just wide.
Mauro Icardi 6. Started his first game for PSG and worked hard without much reward before being replaced.
Angel Di Maria 9. Tucked away the opener with a smart near-post strike and curled home a brilliant second.
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting 6. Introduced up front after an hour and blasted a powerful half-volley over the bar.
Ander Herrera 6. Replaced the injured Marquinhos for the last 20 minutes and kept things simple to retain control.
Abdou Diallo. Came on for Sarabia with one minute remaining and barely had time to make any contribution.
REAL MADRID (4-3-3)
Thibaut Courtois 5. Should have done better with Di Maria’s first at his near post and never inspired much confidence.
Dani Carvajal 5. Easily beaten by Bernat for the opener and was off the pace all night. Had a goal disallowed for offside.
Raphael Varane 6. Twice denied Icardi clear chances with excellent challenges but didn’t always look so secure.
Eder Militao 5. First start for Los Blancos and he looked shaky, often appearing unsure of his positioning alongside Varane.
Ferland Mendy 6. Unable to get forward much as PSG steamed straight at him, but stuck to his task defensively.
Toni Kroos 5. Overrun in midfield and couldn’t find his passing rhythm on the few occasions Madrid dominated.
Casemiro 5. A sluggish performance, failing to break up PSG’s attacks and looking physically and mentally tired.
Gareth Bale 7. Curled a free-kick just over, had a brilliant chip ruled out for handball and fired another effort just wide.
James Rodriguez 6. Plenty of involvement with some sharp passing as he tried to link midfield with attack.
Eden Hazard 5. Made his full debut and came close to levelling with a fierce low strike but was largely ineffective.
Karim Benzema 5. Captain for the night but he couldn’t rise to the occasion, lacking threat other than a header just wide.
Lucas Vazquez 5. Took Hazard’s place in the latter stages but was unable to contribute as his team laboured.
Luka Jovic 5. Brought on to provide more attacking support to Benzema, but failed to do so. Anonymous.
Vinicius Junior 5. Replaced Bale late on, but his main contribution was flattening Di Maria and getting booked.