Marquinhos scores on debut as PSG win big in Greece

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty ImagesA strong second half powered PSG to victory over Olympiakos.

Paris Saint-Germain continued their impressive recent form with a thumping 4-1 win over Olympiakos in Greece to open their Champions League Group C campaign in fine style. A Thiago Motta double, as well as a debut goal for Brazilian defender Marquinhos and a third strike of the season for Edinson Cavani saw Laurent Blanc's side overcome the Greek champions. However, the match was not as one-sided as the heavy score line suggests and Zlatan Ibrahimovic missed a late penalty at the Karaiskakis Stadium.

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It was a genuine game of two halves in Piraeus, with the French champions struggling to impose themselves on their hosts in the first 45. In fact, Michel's side looked highly motivated and could have taken the lead inside of 60 seconds as the vibrant Vladimir Weiss clipped a shot off the crossbar early on. Despite falling behind to Cavani's opener, a goal that came against the run of play and was arguably a little offside, Olympiakos were not overawed and hit back through an exceptional individual effort from Weiss.

The second half was a different story though. PSG were dominant in possession of the ball, as they were against Girondins de Bordeaux in Ligue 1 last Friday, and immediately began to wear their Greek opponents down. A large reason was that the hosts' players began to tire and lost concentration; shipping all three second period goals from set pieces. The halftime introduction of Ezequiel Lavezzi also seemed to inspire the French champions, though and they were more forceful when in possession in the second 45.

However, all the headlines from Greece will belong to new boy Marquinhos after a goal-scoring debut for PSG in his first appearance on the European stage. The 19-year-old, forming the most expensive central defensive pairing in world football alongside Thiago Silva, generally had a solid game. The Brazilian took his goal well, a header from a Motta corner, and looked calm and composed for the majority of the game.

It cannot be overlooked though that he was partly at fault for Weiss' goal, allowing the Slovak to dance his way through both himself and Silva before firing home. Nonetheless, it was an encouraging display from the 35 million euro man.

PSG's set pieces were an accentuated feature of the match which was particularly impressive for a team with no recognised dead ball expert. Ibrahimovic is perhaps the exception and sees himself as a set piece taker, but he is not consistently accurate with his shooting and provides few chances from the opportunities. It has to be said Blanc's side were aided by some statuesque Greek defending, but Lavezzi's deliveries from the left were excellent while Motta, who scored from two of the Argentine's corners, provided the third.

The Italian international taking them from the right is a strange choice, despite the absence of options, but he did score from two of them and assisted Marquinhos' goal with the other in a demonstration of PSG aerial prowess.

However, Motta's goals and assist do not disguise that the same PSG midfield that looked so assured and commanding against Bordeaux were disappointing on the night. The 31-year-old limits the creativity of Blanc's three-man midfield when selected, making the unit unimaginative despite the presence of Marco Verratti who should perhaps be allowed a more freedom to roam forward. On the other hand, Blaise Matuidi was at his irrepressible best and was one of the best players on the pitch.

Ibrahimovic's penalty miss was arguably the most disappointing aspect of the result. His uncharacteristic failure from the spot adds to the underlying feeling that the Swede is not entirely happy at present, an argument furthered by the continued Cavani-Ibra difficulties, despite the Swede being the main architect for the Uruguayan's well-worked opening goal. Those continued problems for PSG’s star strike pairing once again exacerbate the weaknesses of the 4-4-2 system that Blanc so desperately wants to integrate.

It was something of a surprise that the Frenchman even pursued a change in tactics after the relative success of Friday's victory over Bordeaux in Ligue 1, and for a while it looked as if PSG might pay the price for such an unnecessary change. At present, the formation only looks plausible with Lavezzi on pitch, doing a disservice to Lucas Moura who was unlucky to be substituted at halftime. It also puts Cavani and Ibrahimovic under even more pressure when the 4-3-3, though not ideal, is perhaps more workable at this point in their relationship.

Also worth noting was the lack of concentration displayed by the side after taking an undeserved lead. It took Olympiakos just six minutes to get themselves back on level terms and it stemmed from PSG's complacency from having taken the lead.

However, Weiss' goal was a sensational individual effort that even embarrassed the otherwise consistent Maxwell, as well as Marquinhos and Silva who were also at fault. Olympiakos' biggest problem was that they tired dramatically as the match went on and allowed PSG’s passing game to overwhelm them.

The side from the French capital opened last season's Champions League campaign with a 4-1 win against Dynamo Kiev; the same score line again this year can only be a good sign. Blanc's impressive win percentage in the competition continues and PSG remain unbeaten in eight Champions League games. Le President could hardly have asked for anything better.

Marquinhos' positive debut in defence gives the Frenchman a favourable dilemma ahead of Sunday's titanic tussle with newly promoted financial heavyweights Monaco in Ligue 1. With compatriot Alex injured, although likely to recover in time for the game, the youngster's quick adaptation to the team means that Blanc can favour mobility over strength in order to shackle the in-form Falcao on Sunday.

The result sets PSG and Blanc up to make a massive statement of their intent by raising their game for the visit of Claudio Ranieri's side in what promises to be a watershed moment for Ligue 1.

Man of the match: Blaise Matuidi

As is often the case with Matuidi, he was faultless again for PSG. Despite Cavani, Motta and Marquinhos all finding the net, without the French international it would have all fallen apart as Blanc's 4-4-2 formation keeps him overworked. Another commanding performance demonstrates why the 26-year-old continues to be indispensable for club and country.


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