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Messi finds reduced role in PSG’s galaxy of stars – but still shines brightest

Lionel Messi scored an inspired second goal as Paris Saint-Germain defeated Manchester City in Tuesday’s Champions League victory as he opened his goal account for Mauricio Pochettino’s side

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For 74 minutes it had been another low-key outing for Lionel Messi playing in the colours of Paris Saint-Germain .

The Argentine had been relatively anonymous, if efficient, in Tuesday night’s Champions League encounter against Manchester City as he linked up play outside the area.

As so often has been the case in recent years at Barcelona , Messi had appeared to play much of the encounter at walking pace before occasionally springing to life in the final third of the pitch.

His moment of magic was delivered with 16 minutes of normal time remaining; running at the heart of City’s defence after finding space inside City’s half, playing a one-two with Kylian Mbappe before firing home a perfect finish.



Lionel Messi scored his first goal for PSG to help defeat Man City
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Image:

Getty Images)




It was what everyone had been waiting for, the magician’s first goal for his new club and delivered in typically stylish, emphatic fashion.

The Argentine has had a disrupted start to life at Les Parisiens; he missed the first four Ligue 1 games due to a lack of a pre-season before picking up a knee injury earlier this month.

That saw him eye-catchingly substituted off in the league clash against Lyon and out of action for the following domestic matches prior to the visit of the Premier League champions.

Tuesday night was just his second full 90 minutes at his new club and prior to his goal, his role was a secondary one as Mauricio Pochettino’s side got their noses in front.



Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi celebrates scoring his team’s second goal




Messi was involved in the build-up to the goal, but it was Neymar’s miscued effort that found Idrissa Gueye in the penalty area and the former Everton midfielder fired home an impressive finish.

The Argentine’s only other acts of notes included an attempted threaded through ball to Neymar that was intercepted by Kyle Walker and a shot over the bar after being played in by Mbappe, who was flagged up for offside.

So often in recent years Messi had ran the show at the Camp Nou to the point where his teammates were always looking for him on the pitch and often passing to him when the better option was to continuing on themselves.









Tuesday night indicated this may not be the case in the French capital; it was Mbappe who posed the biggest threat to City’s back-line for much of the night as his pace presented the biggest threat on the counter-attack.

Along with Neymar, a functioning and combative midfield and the attacking full-back duo of Achraf Hakimi and Nuno Mendes, the role of Messi was not as omni-present as had been the case in Catalonia.

His attacking partnership with Mbappe and Neymar has generated plenty of excitement, with pundits focusing on their possible combinations ahead of the game.

BT Sport pundit Owen Hargreaves said ahead of the game: “That’s one of the greatest front threes to play, Messi, Neymar Mbappe.



Messi was in the thick of the action
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Image:

REUTERS)




“The front three are off the chart, the rest of the team pfft they’re going to be under a lot pressure, because they won’t track back.

“City everybody works for the team, PSG are on paper but City are the better team as a collective.”

His colleague Rio Ferdinand enthused: “The main thing for me is the three boys up front, it’s mouth-watering, we’ve been waiting a while to see this.”

Tuesday night was the first time that the dream attacking trio were able to announce themselves to the world in style as all three completed 90 minutes alongside each other for the first time.







Neymar and Mbappe were both providers on the night with Messi clinching the victory with his inspired second goal.

Yet at Barcelona the emphasis had always been on him to score the opener, the winner, to be the centre-piece and for everything to revolve around him.

A slightly more understated role in Pochettino’s PSG side allows him to continue to reserve his energy levels to produce the killer blows as the opposition tires.

Messi’s first goal for PSG was special and it will doubtless be the first of dozens this season.


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