Ángel Di María double helps PSG ease to win against Real Madrid | Football
This was not a night for galácticos, old or new. At a balmy Parc Des Princes Paris Saint-Germain simply overran Real Madrid, pulling apart the hastily-stitched seams of Zinedine Zidane’s team and producing surely the most coherent and powerful performance of Thomas Tuchel’s time in charge.
It felt like a humiliation at times – and by the end perhaps something more, a Viking funeral for a team, an era, a way of trying to win. As the seconds ran out there was even the unexpected sight of the Paris full‑backs Juan Bernat and Thomas Meunier bearing down on the Real goal, the midfield crumbling away like a sheet of millefeuille pastry, the defence drowning in all that space.
Bernat took the ball from Meunier. Meunier took it back from Bernat. Meunier might have paused to drink in a most unexpected moment in his own career, but instead steered the ball into the corner of the Real net with a brusque, merciful haste to complete a 3-0 win.
And make no mistake, Real stunk the place out in Paris. This was the bones of the same team that completed that unprecedented (in modern times) trio of Champions League wins just 16 months ago. But they were dreadful in the most profound sense; dreadful in a way that seems to ask other questions. Such as, what is the point of this Real Madrid team? What is it trying to be? And when will it stop?
By the end Luka Jovic, Eden Hazard and Vinícius Júnior had all taken to the pitch. What do these disparate, talented players have in common? How do they fit into a system? Are they anything more £200m worth of expensively assembled whim, a Premier League star here, a Brazilian tyro over there, a Balkan poacher on top?
Le Match Des Etoiles! Before kick-off it was pretty clear how French television wanted to pitch this Group A opener, although in the event Neymar, Mbappé, Edinson Cavani and Julian Draxler were all either injured or suspended. Sport may be cruel but it also has an agreeably arch sense of humour. Instead football’s glitziest new-build attack took on Real Madrid spearheaded by Mauro Icardi, on loan from Internazionale, with Erik Choupo-Moting providing back-up from the bench.
Madrid were also depleted, but still strong enough to line up with a sub-tier of the merely very expensive and celebrated, with Gareth Bale, Hazard and Karim Benzema in the forward line. This was a night when neither of these teams really seemed to need another industrial-scale superstar. Instead it was the vigour and drive of the PSG midfield that left the 13-time champions looking ragged, with Marco Verratti a brilliantly spiky little playmaker, and Idrissa Gueye gleefully relentless in his pressing and covering.
PSG took charge from the start. Bernat produced one thrilling early surge inside Dani Carvajal. It was from there the breakthrough would come. With 14 minutes gone Bernat made the same run, this time feeding the ball into Icardi, then taking a lovely little flick into his path. The pull-back found Ángel Di María. His finish was hard and low, billowing the net from a tight angle.
The PSG ultras erupted, a sea of flare-lighting, shirts-off delirium. Who needs £500m of attacking talent when you’ve got an overlapping full-back and a toe-poked near-post finish? PSG had come to press and harry this stately Madrid midfield and at times Gueye and Marquinhos were a blur of malevolent white. With half an hour gone Icardi crash-tackled his way through three Madrid players just to force a goal-kick. On his touchline Tuchel applauded furiously. He may dress like a groovy sixth-form drama teacher but Tuchel loves to see collisions, well-drilled force and endless running in his teams.
It was a surge down the right from Gueye that teed up the second goal, the ball fed into Di María, who fizzed a wonderful left-footed shot into the corner from the edge of the area. And for a while as half-time approached PSG threatened to overwhelm Madrid, swarming forward in tight little units, passing the ball with speed and verve.
Zidane had to find a way of reversing the gravity of this game. Hazard had been an interested observer in the first half. He dropped deeper to take the ball after the break, but still looked like what he is, a player shaking off the fog of an injury absence.
PSG were still hungry. Di María scooped a horribly casual finish over the bar when he might have buried it. Tuchel raged and beat his chest as he stormed back to the bench, but his team kept coming on a night when that air of born-to-rule assurance seemed to have passed, for now, to PSG.
It comes to something when a cash-drenched nation-state football project is handing out lessons on the virtues of careful team-building, but Tuchel will be rightly proud of his team’s drive and certainty here. Madrid, for their part, just looked like a mess; a superstar vehicle that has, for now, run out of miles to travel.