Angel Di Maria produced a vintage performance with two goals to help Paris Saint-Germain claim a 3-0 home win over Real Madrid in their Champions League Group A opening game on Wednesday.
In the absence of the formidable attacking trio of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Edinson Cavani, Di Maria provided two first-half goals as PSG suffocated Real throughout and Thomas Meunier added a third in stoppage time.
Real, European champions three years in a row from 2016-18 who eliminated PSG in the last 16 in 2017-18, failed to muster a shot on target and suffered their first defeat of the season.
PSG lead the standings on three points, ahead of Club Brugge and Galatasaray, who played out a goalless draw earlier on Wednesday.
“We lacked intensity, we never got into the game, we created very few chances,” Real coach Zinedine Zidane said at a news conference.
Although PSG’s win could be seen as a statement, the French champions still have a long way to go before putting three consecutive last-16 eliminations behind them for good, including last season’s embarrassing defeat by Manchester United.
“Before anyone asks a question… If someone asks me if we’re going to win the Champions League, I’m out of here,” PSG coach Thomas Tuchel said after the match.
Tuchel said the absence of their three star players may not have affected his team and let him embrace the underdog role.
“Without them we were not the favourites and it freed the minds of those who were on the pitch tonight, they did not feel the pressure,” the German tactician said. “We can do without them for a few games if all the others play at their best.”
With Neymar suspended and Mbappe and Cavani injured, Argentine Mauro Icardi started up front after playing his first half hour for PSG in a Ligue 1 game against Strasbourg last weekend.
He had little impact, though, as Di Maria made sure his compatriot’s lack of match time went unnoticed in PSG’s first European game since a shock 3-1 home defeat by United sent them out of last season’s Champions League.
“I am very happy,” Di Maria told RMC. “The result was perfect. We worked hard and did a perfect job. We ran ourselves ragged and were superb.”
Keylor Navas, who joined PSG this offseason after five seasons as goalkeeper with Madrid, downplayed the win over his former club.
“I am very happy as we won, not because we beat Real Madrid. My teammates did a great job. I have no particular feelings against anybody with Real. I just want to enjoy this moment with my new club.
“Everybody here is motivated and I will defend PSG’s colours like I did Real’s before. I will give my best. I want to continue to write my own story. What I had with Real was beautiful. Today, here, it is a new project for me. I want to be happy here, make the mist of each moment and that my family feels good is absolutely vital.”
Ex-Chelsea star Eden Hazard started for Real, who also had to cope with the absence of the injured Marcelo, Isco, Luka Modric, Marco Asensio and Fede Valverde as well as the suspended Sergio Ramos and Nacho Fernandez.
PSG started fast and were rewarded for their early domination in the 14th minute when Di Maria stabbed the ball past Thibaut Courtois at the near post from Juan Bernat’s cross.
It was former Real player Di Maria’s 25th goal in his 100th appearance in a European competition.
He made it 26 in the 33rd minute, curling a superb shot past Courtois from 20 metres after Idrissa Gueye had cut through the Real midfield.
Real forward Gareth Bale found the back of the net shortly afterwards, but the goal was ruled out by the VAR for handball.
PSG left little space to Real, and Di Maria came close to making it 3-0, only for his chip to land on the roof of the net after the Argentine had been sent through by the impressive Gueye.
Real forward Karim Benzema beat Navas from close range in the 77th minute, but the goal was ruled out for a Lucas Vazquez offside.
Full-back Meunier wrapped up an emphatic win when he scored from close range one minute into stoppage time following a PSG counter-attack.