It took less than five minutes Tuesday night for two parts of Paris Saint-Germain’s world-class attacking trio to show just how fast they can change the game. Unfortunately for Juventus, that meant any kind of bright start they had was suddenly put by the wayside because it was now an uphill battle to fight.
Throw in a second goal and it was looking like that three-headed monster was about to lead a Parisian romp and send Juve to a horrendous European defeat. And it would have been totally understandable considering how they came out playing.
That’s why even with a much improved second half where they not only scored a goal through a Weston McKennie header minutes after coming on at the break but found themselves controlling play for large stretches, it still ended up in a 2-1 Paris Saint-Germain victory. With how they played in the second half, Juve probably deserved to get a point out of it, but it’s the kind of story that we’ve seen too many times from this club in Europe — particularly in the knockout rounds — over recent years.
They let the opposing team get the upper-hand and then reacted to it. And as much as they were attempting some sort of press during the opening couple of minutes, that all changed when Neymar and Kylian Mbappe combined for an absolutely brilliant opening goal.
And the rest of the first half ... ugh, that was bad.
Juventus fully deserved the 2-0 hole they found themselves in after Mbappe again flashed his incredible talent to get his first-half brace. Juve were not only down on the scoreboard, but they just completely out of whack, essentially carrying over that performance from Florence with them to Paris. It didn’t matter if Max Allegri changed his formation and put some of players in more comfortable positions — especially a couple of Juve’s big summer signings, Bremer and Filip Kostic — things in the first half were looking bleak, very bleak.
Whether it was some halftime adjustments Allegri made — hey, look, he can do something good, right? — or Paris Saint-Germain taking its foot off the gas a little bit, the second half we saw from Juventus was something that you wish they put forth in the first 45 minutes. They were creating chances on top of what McKennie did just a couple of minutes after coming on for Fabio Miretti. And if it wasn’t for a couple of great reaction saves from Gianluigi Donnarumma — yes, after he was wandering in no man’s land on Kostic’s cross to McKennie — Juve probably would have tied things up.
There is frustration with how Juve played to begin the game. But there surely is some regret in that locker room with how they played most of the second half, too.
It’s just proof that you can’t dig yourself that early of a hole against such a good team like PSG is. And it’s especially true with this version of Juventus because they simply don’t have the firepower to overturn a two-goal deficit in their current state.
I guess what I’m trying to say after all of that is that I’m glad it wasn’t the complete ass kicking that it was looking like it was heading toward after 20-something minutes. But I also would have liked if Juventus didn’t allow PSG to control things early on and thus enable them to take the 2-0 lead. You just can’t play that way in an opening half and expect not to get burned.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Pre-game thought No. 1: It’s a 3-5-2! Hey, at least it’s different, I guess.
- Pre-game thought No. 2: Fabio Miretti in the Champions League! Last September, he was playing in Serie C and then bouncing down to the primavera squad when they played in in the UEFA Youth League. Now ... look at our boy.
- Pre-game thought No. 3: What’s the number of combined touches Dusan Vlahovic and Arek Milik will get in this game? I’m setting the over/under at 52. The next bullet will be the final total of that.
- Total number of combined touches for Vlahovic and Milik against PSG: 47 (Vlahovic 24, Milik 23). They had a combined 24 touches at halftime, which doesn’t seem all that good.
- Then again, Milik nearly made it 1-1 off a really good Juan Cuadrado cross and if it wasn’t for the header being more straight than anything and a really good Gianluigi Donnarumma save, Juve would have been tied within 20 minutes.
- At halftime, there were four PSG players who had more touches than the Juventus player who had the most touches (Lenadro Paredes, 47).
- I’m still wondering what Donnarumma was doing on that cross on McKennie’s goal. Like, at some point, the guy is going to have to get these mistakes out of his system no matter how purely talented he is. The reaction saves like he had on Milik and Vlahovic are amazing, but then there’s the clunker like on McKennie’s goal that makes you scratch your head.
- OK, I’ll be honest: I thought this game was going to be at least a 4-0 squash after Mbappe found the back of the net to make it 2-0. Not that I had any kind of high hopes to begin with, but that was looking like death by world-class goal after world-class goal.
- Marco Verratti got a yellow card. That’s how you know the Champions League is back, baby.
- Leandro Paredes’ debut with Juventus was not very good over the weekend. I feel safe in saying that his first game with Juve in the Champions League went a lot better. It was a low bar, but still! The guy played well — especially in the second half — with the kind of game you would want to see out of your regista. Now he’s got to build off this.
- Love seeing Neymar flop all the time. Love, love, love it.
- Love seeing Sergio Ramos be a (insert expletive here). Love, love, love it.
- Kylian Mbappe was just operating at a different kind of speed than the entirety of Juventus’ 11 players on the field Tuesday night. He is worth all of that money PSG is paying him. What a talent.
- How does Max Allegri inspire things in the second half? Mattia De Sciglio for Juan Cuadrado. De Sciglio ended up touching the ball 10 times and didn’t attempt a single cross after coming on.
- There was this from Cuadrado, though: It’s the 17th minute, he tries to dribble his man, sees no sort of lane, pulls the ball back and then attempts a long back pass across the field. The problem was, nobody was near where the ball actually landed. The pretty much summed up the first half for Juventus.
- It doesn’t matter if the stadium is literally on fire, Filip Kostic is going to send in crosses and there’s nothing you can do about it.
- It was in a substitute appearance, but this was the kind of performance from McKennie that we’ve been waiting to see all season. He scored the goal, was a threat going forward and was seemingly all over the place defensively as well. I like when Wes is good because he adds something to Juve’s midfield that not many others can replicate.
- When Mbappe, Messi and Neymar are cooking like they were, it really shines a light on just how far behind pace-wise Leonardo Bonucci is. There were a few instances even besides Mbappe’s opener where Bonucci either was totally slow reacting to a pass or just didn’t know where the ball was and had to try and close on a wide open player. Just not good.
- Also, this was not Bremer’s night. Guy had a decent night stats-wise, but definitely showed that there’s still room for him to grow on the European stage. He’ll get there. He’s too talented not to, but for now the inexperience at the continental level showed.
- Do we say the same about Fabio Miretti’s performance? At least he had a better pass completion percentage than he did over the weekend against Florence.
- I’ll close on this positive: Juventus’ goal differential was looking like it might be really bad after this game. Turns out, it’s not so bad. As Max Allegri looks toward the Benfica fixture in Turin, thank goodness Juve’s not looking at some stupid goal differential after the first group stage game.