Paris Saint-Germain earned a narrow 1-0 victory at home to a struggling Brest side on Saturday afternoon, returning to the Ligue 1 summit.
“We can’t take our foot off the gas,” Christophe Galtier declared pre-game. However, his side scarcely found top gear, starting groggily before Neymar gave them the lead in the 30th minute. The wasteful hosts saw their threat dwindle dramatically after the hour-mark – just as it had against Juventus in midweek.
Defending deep for most of the match, Brest unsettled their hosts in transition. Islam Slimani had a second-half penalty to level the match saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma as PSG nervily held onto all three points.
PSG belatedly cranked out of their sluggish start once Lionel Messi took the wheel. The Argentine playmaker pulled the strings from deep, starting the move which saw his crisp, goal-bound volley blocked by his own teammate, Kylian Mbappe.
Tiptoeing around the pitch in a permanent pocket of space, Messi collected possession in the centre circle, sliding a through-ball which Neymar sprinted onto. Christophe Herelle scythed the Brazilian down but had his red card overturned after a VAR review revealed Neymar was offside.
Neymar timed his run to perfection a matter of minutes later. Sprinting into the channel of space between Herelle and Noah Fadiga on the right of Brest’s back-five which PSG repeatedly targeted, Neymar brought down Messi’s wonderfully scooped pass with his right foot before swinging his left boot through the ball, picking out the bottom corner half an hour in.
The league leaders squandered a glut of chances to extend their lead before the interval. In a reversal of roles from the victory over Juventus in midweek, Neymar turned down the option to tee up Mbappe in front of goal, instead finding Messi who had a weak effort rebuffed while off-balance.
PSG’s profligacy continued after the break. Messi found himself on the end of Mbappe’s delicate chip into the area, nodding a slow-motion header onto the post. Mbappe repeatedly burst into the box himself but was uncharacteristically blunt at the sharp end of the pitch.
Les Parisiens were almost made to pay for their wastefulness as Presnel Kimpembe clumsily hauled Fadiga to the turf inside his own area. Slimani had been an intermittent thorn in open play but saw his penalty impressively pawed away by Donnarumma in the 71st minute.
Kimpembe was ultimately forced to leave the pitch with injury after PSG had made all five substitutions, leaving his side understaffed during a skittish conclusion as the capital outfit unconvincingly prepared for their Champions League trip to Maccabi Haifa in midweek.
GK: Gianluigi Donnarumma – 8/10 – Unfazed by Slimani’s slow-motion run-up, Donnarumma used all of his 6’5 frame to save the penalty.
CB: Sergio Ramos – 6/10 – Roaming forward from the back-three, Ramos was remarkably cool – even cocky at times – on the ball.
CB: Danilo Pereira – 8/10 – Provided a solid base sweeping behind the backline in the absence of captain Marquinhos.
CB: Presnel Kimpembe – 3/10 – The stand-in skipper was bailed out by his keeper after a sluggish concession of a penalty.
RWB: Achraf Hakimi – 5/10 – Always offering himself as an option, dusting his heels with chalk he was so wide.
CM: Marco Verratti – 4/10 – Often bypassed off the ball when Brest mounted attacks in transition and was ponderous in possession.
CM: Vitinha – 6/10 – Knitted PSG’s game together with simple and safe passes.
LWB: Juan Bernat – 7/10 – Constantly hanging on the shoulder of the deepest red shirt, itching to get on the end of a clipped pass invariably arced by Messi.
AM: Lionel Messi – 9/10 – Regally strolling around the Parc des Princes, Messi was at the heart of everything promising PSG created.
ST: Kylian Mbappe – 6/10 – Lightning off the mark, Mbappe repeatedly burst behind Brest’s backline but without reward.
ST: Neymar – 8/10 – Alongside his expected threat going forward, Neymar was diligent defensively – at one point he sprinted from the attacking penalty area to his own to snuff out a Brest breakaway.
SUB: Fabian Ruiz (63′ for Verratti) – 5/10
SUB: Hugo Ekitike (78′ for Neymar) – N/A
SUB: Pablo Sarabia (78′ for Mbappe) – N/A
SUB: Nuno Mendes (78′ for Bernat) – N/A
SUB: Marquinhos (87′ for Vitinha) – N/A
Manager: Christophe Galtier – 7/10 – If it was his idea to penetrate the right side of Brest’s backline – spotting the uncertainty between two players who had previously played 40 minutes alongside one another – it certainly bore fruit. Needs to work on the team’s slackening off.