Paris (AFP) – Angel Di Maria scored twice against his former club as Paris Saint-Germain shrugged off the absences of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe and thrashed Real Madrid 3-0 on Wednesday to get off to the perfect start in their latest bid for Champions League success.
Di Maria beat Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois at his near post to put PSG ahead in the 14th minute at the Parc des Princes, but it was his second goal just after the half-hour mark that really lit up this encounter.
The Argentine, who starred for Real for four years and won the Champions League with them in 2014 before making an ill-fated move to Manchester United, gave Courtois no chance with a shot on his left foot from 20 yards out that arrowed into the corner.
Thomas Meunier added the gloss to the score-line at the death but it was Di Maria who had cleared the way for his side, stepping up in the absences of the injured Mbappe and Edinson Cavani as well as the suspended Neymar.
After a summer dominated by the saga of whether the world’s most expensive player would leave the club, here was a reminder that the French champions have others capable of winning such games.
These two clubs are trying to recover some of their lustre after disappointing campaigns in Europe last season, but for PSG this result is a measure of revenge for their defeat at the hands of Real in the last 16 the previous year.
They remain unbeaten at home in the Champions League group stage since 2004 and they are already in control of Group A before facing Galatasaray and Club Brugge, who drew 0-0 in Belgium on Wednesday.
Real remain far from convincing since Zinedine Zidane’s return to the club for a second spell as coach and the 13-time European Cup winners have won only twice in five outings so far this season.
There is still much work to be done if they are to go deep in this competition again after being humbled by Ajax in the last 16 last spring.
– Hazard makes little impact –
They had a Gareth Bale goal disallowed for handball after a VAR review just after going two behind, while Eden Hazard struggled to make an impact on his first start since his 100 million-euro ($110 million) move from Chelsea.
Madrid were also handicapped by the absences of Sergio Ramos, Nacho and Marcelo in defence as well as Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric from their midfield.