PARIS — The star was missing but the party went ahead successfully at the Parc des Princes on Saturday as Paris Saint-Germain won its French league season-opener.
Without Neymar on the pitch, Edinson Cavani and Javier Pastore took on the scoring responsibilities to ensure PSG got a winning start by beating promoted Amiens 2-0. It was only PSG’s fourth win in its last 12 season-opening games in Ligue 1.
World-record signing Neymar was ineligible to play because of paperwork issues and PSG coach Unai Emery opted for a 4-3-3 formation with Pastore and Angel Di Maria supporting Cavani.
Just like the fans, Neymar watched from the stands. The French league did not receive his international transfer certificate from the Spanish federation before Friday night’s deadline, despite his 222 million euro ($262 million) move from Barcelona being completed the previous day.
“All I know is that the club did everything to have the player’s transfer ratified,” Emery said. “He prepared for the game with the group, we waited until the very end. I don’t know if Spain did everything, but PSG did all it could,”
Neymar did not play but he gave fans something to cheer about during his official presentation before the game. Neymar was unveiled at a ceremony involving fireworks and did a lap of honor.
The 25-year-old Brazil international is now expected to make his debut on Aug. 13 against Guingamp.
“With Neymar we can get bigger,” said Emery, whose main objectives this season are to win the Champions League and to regain the French league title his players relinquished to Monaco last season.
Hired a few weeks before Neymar this summer, Brazil defender Dani Alves was given his first start, while Alphonse Areola was prefered to Kevin Trapp in goal.
Amiens has the smallest budget of the league with 25 million euros — not much more than a tenth of what PSG paid for Neymar — and it showed. Amiens gave away possession immediately after kickoff with a long ball that went out of bounds.
The visitors were then pegged back into their own half until the break.
“We hoped that some PSG players would have their minds turned to partying because of Neymar, but they were all serious,” Amiens coach Christophe Pelissier said. “We did what we could, but it was really tough offensively.”
Arguably the man of the match, Cavani was a constant threat with his runs and the 34-year-old Alves showed age is not slowing him down.
Bossing the midfield and enjoying possession, PSG combined well in Amiens’ box with a series of quick passes that unsettled the visitors’ back four, although it took Emery’s side some time to find the net.
The hosts had two good chances in the first 10 minutes but Cavani sent the first over, then fired wide after being set up by Di Maria on both occasions.
PSG’s next chance came in the 18th minute from a corner that ended with Adrien Rabiot, but his header flew over the bar. Rabiot tested Regis Gurtner with a low shot soon after the half-hour, yet his strike was too weak and comfortably stopped.
Cavani finally broke the deadlock with three minutes left in the first half from Alves’ assist. The Uruguay striker controlled the ball with his right foot and slotted home with his left into the bottom corner.
PSG kept dominating after the interval as Di Maria produced a good save from Gurtner with a left-footed volley from Marco Verratti’s precise pass, and Cavani had another shot blocked in the 75th.
Pastore doubled PSG’s lead in the 80th at the end of a counterattack after Verratti released the ball for Cavani, who sent it to the Argentine midfielder to finish off the slick passing move with a calm finish.
Defending champion Monaco opened its title defense with a 3-2 win over Toulouse on Friday.
DIAZ SCORES 2 ON LYON DEBUT
Mariano Diaz scored a brace as Lyon thrashed promoted Strasbourg 4-0, with captain Nabil Fekir also scoring twice against the Ligue 2 champions.
Diaz showed he can be a fine replacement for France striker Alexandre Lacazette, who left for Arsenal over the summer.
Diaz, who joined from Real Madrid, was recommended to Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas by Madrid’s France forward Karim Benzema.
The easy victory lifted Lyon to an early lead in the standings on goal difference.
NICE LOSES ANOTHER OPENER
After securing a third-place finish last season, Nice has now lost five of its last six season-openers.
Jonathan Bamba scored the only goal as Saint-Etienne new coach Oscar Garcia got off to a winning start with a 1-0 victory at Geoffroy-Guichard stadium.
Nice lacked inspiration throughout the evening, perhaps a consequence of the efforts deployed midweek to reach the Champions League playoffs at the expense of Dutch club Ajax.
TRIBUTE TO ‘LOULOU’
Montpellier players gathered and raised their fingers toward the sky in a tribute to the late club president Louis Nicollin after Souleymane Camara gave the hosts a 1-0 win over Caen.
Camara became the club’s all-time top scorer with his 48th goal.
All Montpellier players wore a special jersey emblazoned with the word “Loulou,” Nicollin’s nickname.
Nicollin, who helped to produce one of the biggest upsets in French football when his unfashionable club won the league in 2012, died in June, on his 74th birthday.
Troyes and Rennes drew 1-1, and Metz was beaten 3-1 at home by Guingamp.