Paris Saint-Germain nearly suffered a European hangover as they needed a 91st-minute strike from Kylian Mbappe to steer them to a 2-1 victory over Brest on Saturday.
Christophe Galtier’s side were well below par and saw Carlos Soler’s opener cancelled out by Franck Honorat before half-time, and they made incredibly hard work of the second half before Mbappe popped up to save the day.
Mbappe saw an early shot blocked before Soler’s thumping strike from towards the edge of the box was excellently tipped onto the post by Brest stopper Marco Bizot.
Predictably, the visitors quickly flexed their dominance and began dominating proceedings, although Brest defended resolutely and even caused a few half-scares on the counter, reminding PSG that there was to be no walkover here.
Jean-Kevin Duverne got a brief glimpse of goal from a corner but his powerful header was sent right into the arms of Gianluigi Donnarumma, before the Brest left-back saw a penalty appeal controversially waved away.
PSG calmed the nerves shortly before half-time. Mbappe’s strike from range was uncomfortably parried by Bizot, but the rebound landed right at the feet of Soler and the Spaniard sent the ball crashing into the net off the underside of the bar.
However, the two sides went into the break tied as Honorat crashed home on the counter. The winger was played over the top and held off two defenders before firing into the top corner to grab the equaliser they deserved.
Brest were energetic once again at the start of the second half, although they got away with some sloppy defending as they left Lionel Messi open, but the Argentine couldn’t keep his effort on target.
Mbappe then found an inch of space in the box but, with Bizot advancing, the Frenchman sliced his effort high and wide.
There was some drama late on as Mbappe aimed a blatant kick at Haris Belkebla – nothing dangerous but definitely petulant – but VAR somehow was not interested and allowed the referee’s verdict of a yellow card to stand.
Just moments later, Mbappe stuck the dagger into Brest hearts. With 91 minutes on the clock, Messi’s long ball found the Frenchman, who breezed past Bizot and tapped into an empty net to snatch all three points.
GK: Marco Bizot (6); RB: Noah Fadiga (7); CB: Achraf Dari (6); CB: Lilian Brassier (6); LB: Jean-Kevin Duverne (7); DM: Pierre Lees-Melou (7); RM: Franck Honorat (7); CM: Hugo Magnetti (6); CM: Haris Belkebla (7); LM: Romain Del Castillo (7); ST: Steve Mounie (6)
Substitutes: Jeremy Le Douaron (5), Felix Lemarechal (6), Christophe Herelle (5)
GK: Gianluigi Donnarumma – 5/10 – Another game without a clean sheet for Donnarumma. Time to start asking questions.
RB: Timothee Pembele – 4/10 – Played too advanced for somebody with his limited pace. Couldn’t handle Honorat for the equaliser and was targeted all game long.
CB: Danilo Pereira – 6/10 – Largely comfortable but didn’t get a lot of help from those around him.
CB: Sergio Ramos – 5/10 – His limited athleticism was made obvious here. Couldn’t keep up with Honorat.
LB: Nuno Mendes – 7/10 – After a tricky first half, Mendes ran the show after the break. Probably the most dangerous attacker and Galtier responded by pushing him even further forward late on.
CM: Marco Verratti – 5/10 – Couldn’t keep up with Brest’s midfield whatsoever. Looked a little isolated at times.
CM: Warren Zaire-Emery – 6/10 – His energy set him apart from the rest of PSG’s midfield, although the youngster didn’t offer a whole lot more.
CM: Fabian Ruiz – 4/10 – Another poor showing for Fabian. Doesn’t seem to mesh with this team at all.
AM: Carlos Soler – 7/10 – The stand-out in PSG’s midfield. Buzzed around with real energy and deserved his goal.
ST: Lionel Messi – 8/10 – Plenty of dangerous moments and a glorious assist for Mbappe’s winner.
ST: Kylian Mbappe – 6/10 – Somehow avoided a red card for an obvious kick on Belkebla late on, after which he made the difference with a composed finish.
Vitinha (75′ for Fabian) – 5/10
Juan Bernat (75′ for Pembele) – 6/10
Hugo Ekitike (80′ for Soler) – 5/10
Renato Sanches (89′ for Zaire-Emery) – N/A
Christophe Galtier – 4/10 – A zoom from a cheeky camera operator appeared to show a notebook with very few tactical notes. Regardless of whether that screenshot was fair or not, it definitely seemed like it told the truth. Escapes further criticism because of the impact of the current injury crisis.