PARIS — Just as Bayern Munich was about to kick off at the Parc des Princes, Paris Saint-Germain’s hard-core fans unfurled a huge banner.
“Tomorrow Europe will be red and blue,” it read, referring to PSG’s traditional colors.
It’s big prediction. But if the Parisians can unleash the same attacking might they showed in a 3-0 win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Wednesday, that prediction might not be so unrealistic.
PSG had already won big matches against some of Europe’s finest teams in the past. Last season, it defeated Barcelona 4-0 in the first leg of the Round of 16, only to lose 6-1 in Spain after the hosts produced one of the greatest comebacks of all time.
But that was before the devastating trident of Edinson Cavani, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar was assembled with the seemingly unlimited funds provided by the club’s Qatari owners – with the objective of winning Europe’s top competition.
“They are very, very strong,” Bayern coach Carlo Ancelotti said. “To stop Mbappe and Neymar is difficult. When they have space to show their qualities, they are difficult to control.”
On Wednesday, they were unstoppable on the break and carved open the five-time champions to take command of Group B with goals from Dani Alves, Cavani and Neymar.
“Our goal is to finish first in this group,” PSG coach Unai Emery said. “PSG is growing little by little, and all the other teams now think we are a big rival. We will try to keep this and level and be something more important in football. We want to be Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich. And I think today we are at their level.”
Mbappe, who was hired alongside Neymar this summer, did not score but tormented the Bayern defense throughout with his dribbling ability and frenetic pace. He was decisive in setting up Neymar’s goal.
After scoring eight goals without conceding in their first two matches, PSG leads the group with six points, with Bayern and Celtic tied for second place with three points.
Celtic won 3-0 at Anderlecht in the group’s other match on Wednesday.
Bayern enjoyed a good spell in the first half and caused problems for the hosts’ defense. But it lacked pace and finishing after conceding early.
Ancelotti unexpectedly left wingers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery on the bench, opting for a more defensive approach with Arturo Vidal and Corentin Tolisso instead. Ancelotti also gave starting roles to Niklas Sule and Javi Martinez in the heart of his defense, at the expense of Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng, with the latter being left out of the squad.
There was no surprise in Unai Emery’s 4-3-3 line-up and PSG needed just two minutes to break through following inspiration from Neymar. The Brazil forward received the ball on the left and quickly moved it forward to get past a defender. Neymar cut inside through a sea of legs and delivered a perfect assist on the right of the box for the unmarked Alves, who fired home from a tight angle.
Bayern did not panic and tried to regain its composure with a spell of possession. It worked, and Javi Martinez came close with a shot from the edge of the box that forced ‘keeper Alphonse Areola to palm the ball over with a diving save.
Bayern threatened from set pieces but still struggled to contain the attacking verve and tremendous pace of Neymar and Mbappe, with its midfield and back four often left wide open.
PSG did not take advantage of its chances, though, until Cavani made it 2-0 near the half-hour mark, curling a superb shot into the top corner from Mbappe’s assist to beat ‘keeper Sven Ulreich.
Ancelotti brought on former PSG academy graduate Kingsley Coman and Sebastian Rudy after the interval to turn things around. The pair added an extra threat but the visitors continued to be vulnerable to counterattacks as Mbappe and Neymar combined on the edge of the box, only for the Brazil star to send a shot wide.
Neymar made amends a few minutes later after Alves led another charge and found Mbappe down the right. The France international wrong-footed David Alaba before seeing his shot blocked, only for Neymar to score a poacher’s goal before the defense could clear the danger in the 63rd minute.
Bayern could not even manage a consolation goal as Robert Lewandowski hit the woodwork in added time.
“We had prepared this game to have a good control of play,” Ancelotti said. “But after conceding early, we did not find the right balance, and it was the key.”
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