PARIS — Reigning champions Paris Saint-Germain got their Ligue 1 title defence off to an ideal start with a 3-0 win over Caen on Sunday.
Neymar, Adrien Rabiot and substitute Timothy Weah all scored as coach Thomas Tuchel and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon made a winning start to life in Le Championnat and the French capital outfit celebrated its 48th birthday in style.
Although the second half was mostly a nonevent, there were signs in the first half that Tuchel is already moulding this team in his own image.
PSG did not have to be at their best, but they did still play some lovely football to carve Caen open, with Christopher Nkunku teeing up Neymar and Angel Di Maria serving Rabiot in two very well-worked goals.
It also was great to see Tuchel resist the temptation to play as many established figures as possible, no matter their fitness, and go with youth academy graduates instead — Colin Dagba, Stanley N’Soki and Antoine Bernede did not look out of their depth.
Although the second half was not exactly quality viewing, it was a convincing win overall and a good start to the season, with many senior figures still to return to full fitness.
It also was an emotional night for the supporters as they bid farewell to now Roma man Javier Pastore at half-time, and although it was a fine homage to the Argentina international, it was a moment many of the fans were dreading.
Manager rating out of 10
6 — Tuchel stuck with PSG’s recognised 4-3-3 formation, but expect that to change once everybody is fully fit. The German tactician got an encouraging first half from his players, and his decision to send Weah on at the end produced a bonus goal.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Gianluigi Buffon, 7 — He became PSG’s oldest player in Ligue 1 history on his maiden outing at Parc des Princes and made a few smart saves to earn a clean sheet.
DF Colin Dagba, 6 — One of the revelations of a distinctly average preseason, the youth academy graduate deserved to keep his starting role after the Trophee des Champions win over Monaco, and he followed it up with another solid display.
DF Marquinhos, 6 — With less preseason preparation under his belt than he or Tuchel would have liked, it was an adequate, no-frills showing.
DF Thiago Silva (c), 6 — Like Marquinhos, he needed a bit longer in preseason, but all things considered, he was in good enough shape to not be caught out by a new-look Caen attack.
DF Stanley N’Soki, 6 — He and Dagba both deserved to keep their starting roles after mature performances against Monaco in China, and the injured Layvin Kurzawa was not missed this time.
MF Lassana Diarra, 7 — Having enjoyed a full preseason, it was no surprise that he was sharper than most and an influential figure in midfield until he was replaced by Moussa Diaby with 20 minutes to go.
MF Antoine Bernede, 6 — A bigger surprise than the inclusion of Dagba and N’Soki from the start, Bernede justified Tuchel’s confidence by combining well with Diarra and Rabiot in the middle, and the full 90 minutes will have done him the world of good.
MF Adrien Rabiot, 7 — Like Diarra, his preseason was very thorough, and a solid start to the new Ligue 1 season was capped with a goal after a bursting run to score from Di Maria’s assist.
FW Angel Di Maria, 6 — Still finding his way back to full fitness after missing the majority of preseason, Tuchel will have been satisfied by what he saw — even if both know there is more to come.
FW Neymar, 6 — Preferred to Weah in the middle with Edinson Cavani yet to return to training after his World Cup injury, he took his goal well early on and showed flashes of inspiration but faded as the match went on before being replaced by the American late on.
FW Christopher Nkunku, 6 — He picked up where he left off in preseason with another important contribution — this time an assist for Neymar’s opener.
FW Julian Draxler, N/R –– It was a surprise to see Bernede preferred to him in midfield from the start, but it was clear why that was the case when he came on for the final 20 minutes in place of Di Maria — he is still rusty and is not ready for such a demanding role in the middle.
FW Moussa Diaby, N/R — Brighter than Draxler in the final 20 minutes, he combined well with Nkunku, Dagba and Weah in the limited time he was given.
FW Timothy Weah, N/R — Allowed the final eight minutes in Neymar’s place, he seized his opportunity by forcing Caen goalkeeper Brice Samba into gifting him PSG’s third goal through sheer perseverance. Booked for taking his shirt off in celebration of his first Ligue 1 goal.