It was far from ideal for Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, and Marquinhos to return to play with Paris Saint-Germain against RC Strasbourg Alsace in Ligue 1 on Wednesday. Due to a 96th-minute penalty that saved all three points for the home team, Kylian Mbappe was forced to play the role of last-second hero. The trio, who were all participating in FIFA World Cup matches in Qatar, swiftly resumed their domestic schedule in an effort to move over their shared sadness. However, a narrow 2-1 victory over the struggling Alsatian team, in which Neymar was sent off, was not part of the plan.
The evening got off to a good start when Marco Verratti’s contract extension through 2026 was made public prior to kickoff, much to the joy of the enthusiastic Parc des Princes audience, who were cheering for Mbappe after his valiant efforts with France. After 14 minutes, it got even better when Marquinhos headed in Neymar’s free kick into the Strasbourg penalty area for the game’s first goal. It appeared as though the Champions League leaders would gain new momentum.
After that, though, PSG began to exhibit the expected rust that had built up over a month or so of inactivity during the World Cup. Christophe Galtier’s team struggled for much of the game due to players’ differing degrees of freshness, El Chadaille Bitshiabu filling in at left back, and motivated opponents playing in conditions very different from Qatar.
Former PSG player Kevin Gameiro caused Gianluigi Donnarumma to make a deft save, serving as a warning to the home team but going unheeded as Julien Stephan’s team continued to create opportunities. Just six minutes into the second half, Marquinhos successfully deflected Adrien Thomasson’s cross past the Italian goalkeeper to bring Strasbourg, who rightly earned a point, level.
It only got worse for PSG and Neymar when another World Cup veteran, referee Clement Turpin, issued two swift bookings to them, the second one for simulation in an attempt to gain a penalty. The Brazil international created Marquinhos’ opening goal and made several excellent passes, but his night ended in acrimony after he received two bookings within two minutes of one another and reportedly stormed out of Parc des Princes.
Mbappe’s performance didn’t appear to be much better. He attempted to continue where he left off with France in Lusail but quickly realized that things are very different for clubs compared to countries. Matz Sels did well to make a solid save on the World Cup golden boot winner in the first half, but the 24-year-old was too frequently left to make plays on his own and was just as irritated as Neymar by the game’s conclusion. Until he wasn’t, at least.
Controversy surrounded the game-winning play since Mbappe was clipped while advancing through the defense but still managed to get a shot off. The defender Marquinhos knocked in the rebound of Mbappe’s shot as the referee blew for the penalty. Mbappe had to score from the penalty spot after the goal was disallowed, which he did.
Due to Lionel Messi’s delayed return and Galtier’s next extremely difficult away match against RC Lens on January 1st, Neymar’s red card presents an exciting challenge for Galtier. It also puts more on on Mbappe to perform independently. This data suggests that Franck Haise’s team will be the hardest test yet for PSG’s undefeated record, which could have been jeopardized today had Strasbourg been near to full strength.