Lionel Messi’s superb first goal for Paris Saint-Germain was well worth the wait and delivered a timely reminder of the electric skill that has helped him win a record six Ballon d’Or trophies.
It also punished his former coach Pep Guardiola’s team as PSG beat Manchester City 2-0 in the Champions League group stage on Tuesday.
Messi charged from midfield toward the penalty area in the 74th minute, opening up more space as Achraf Hakimi made a dummy run to his right, and received a clever flick from Kylian Mbappe before curling a fine strike into the top right corner with the most famed left foot in world soccer. The ecstatic crowd rose to their feet.
“I’m very happy to have scored. I’ve not been playing much recently and I’m adapting to my teammates little by little,” Messi said through a translator.
“The more we play together the better it will become. We need to grow together and increase our level.”
Messi netted an astounding 672 goals for Barcelona but it was his first for PSG in three starts and four games overall since a shock summer move from the Spanish club.
“The goal was fantastic,” Guardiola said.
It was the kind he scored for fun playing under Guardiola at Barcelona. The pair won the Champions League in 2009 and 2011, with Messi scoring in both finals.
City had not lost its five previous meetings with PSG, winning 2-1 in Paris and 2-0 at home in last season’s semifinals before losing to Chelsea in the final.
PSG started its dream attack of Messi, Neymar and Mbappe, but it was unheralded midfielder Idrissa Gueye who opened the scoring in the eighth minute.
The Senegal international thumped the ball into the top corner after Neymar’s scuffed shot fell to him just inside the penalty area following Mbappe’s cross from the right.
“I get a lot of scoring chances in this team, the forwards make a lot of runs so the second ball often drops to me inside and outside the penalty area,” Gueye said. As midfielders, we are there to try and finish (chances).
City should have equalized in the 26th, but instead produced a contender for miss of the season.
Raheem Sterling’s header from Kevin De Bruyne’s cross hit the crossbar and the ball fell to winger Bernardo Silva less than two meters out. But Silva somehow scooped the ball onto the bar with goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma beaten.
Donnarumma and opposite number Ederson then made a smart save each in an even first half that De Bruyne was perhaps lucky to finish, receiving only a yellow card for a dangerous tackle on Gueye’s shin.
Sterling dragged a shot wide early in the second half as City caught PSG’s defense asleep down the left.
Donnarumma then kicked away De Bruyne’s shot in the 54th as City exposed poor defending on the other flank as the Premier League champion took control.
“It was a good performance. We did everything but score,” Guardiola said. We defended well, they defended deep and a counterattack from them is always dangerous.
PSG’s glittering attack looked flat, as it did in a 1-1 draw against Club Brugge. Neymar shot into the side netting midway through the second half, with Mbappe in a better position.
Then Messi lit up Parc des Princes with a glimpse of things to come, at the stadium where he scored his last Champions League goal for Barcelona last season.
PSG tops Group A on goal difference and is level with Club Brugge with four points, while City is third with three points. Club Brugge won 2-1 at last-place Leipzig.
City is at Brugge, and 2020 Champions League runner-up PSG hosts Leipzig on Oct. 19. ( PTI )