PARIS: Neymar for once played a more restricted role as Edinson Cavani scored twice and Thiago Motta once in Paris Saint-Germain’s comfortable 3-0 home win over Saint-Etienne in Ligue 1 on Friday (Saturday in Manila).
The world’s most expensive player — scorer of three goals in his first two games since his 222 million-euro ($261 million) move from Barcelona — still had a considerable influence, with his pass preceding the foul on Cavani that led to a first-half penalty scored by the Uruguayan.
And it was following a Neymar free-kick that Motta netted a rare goal after half-time to make it two before Cavani completed the win at the death as PSG maintained their perfect start to the French season with four wins from four outings.
“We have achieved our objective of being top of the table after this game,” said PSG coach Unai Emery.
“This match has given us lots of information about how to improve and to help Neymar adapt to the league and the different opponents.
“He felt really good in the first two matches. This was different but it will help him learn.”
Saint-Etienne had travelled to the Parc des Princes with a perfect record and without having conceded a goal in their opening three games, but while they were well organised defensively they lacked quality at the other end.
Neymar was not the only sporting megastar to appear on the pitch at the Parc des Princes as Steph Curry of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors gave the ceremonial kick-off before the match itself got under way.
Emery chose to rest Neymar’s Brazil teammates Dani Alves and Thiago Silva at kick-off while Marco Verratti was suspended following his red card in last Sunday’s Neymar-inspired 6-2 demolition of Toulouse.
Javier Pastore, who scored a fabulous goal in that game, was one of those to come into the home line-up. The Argentine playmaker’s influence was limited by a Saint-Etienne side playing with a five-man defence, but a controversial penalty decision allowed PSG to make the breakthrough 20 minutes in.
Attempting to connect with a deflected Neymar pass, Cavani went down under the slightest of contact from Saidy Janko as he entered the area. A spot-kick was given and the Uruguayan converted his fourth goal in as many league games this season.
Alphonse Areola then denied Jonathan Bamba at the other end to ensure PSG held the lead at half-time, before the second goal arrived six minutes after the restart.
Neymar whipped in a free-kick and Marquinhos chested the ball back into the path of Motta, who finished for his first league goal since January last year.
Angel Di Maria then saw a free-kick come back off the post before Cavani applied a classy finish to a Thomas Meunier cross to make it 3-0 as the clock ticked to the 90th minute.
Defending champions Monaco are the only other team in France’s top division still with a 100 percent record, although they face a difficult test at home to Marseille on Sunday evening.
Having not featured in either of his side’s last two games amid speculation about his future, Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim hinted on Friday that Kylian Mbappe could play a part in that game.
Still undefeated Lyon can leapfrog Monaco into second place with a win at Nantes on Saturday.