Neymar starts 2019 with encouraging 8/10 display in PSG's Coupe de France win over Pontivy
Defending Coupe de France champions Paris Saint-Germain advanced to the round of 32 with a 4-0 win over minnows Pontivy in Lorient on Sunday.
Sylvain Jule's own goal got Thomas Tuchel's men up and running for 2019 but Neymar, Kylian Mbappe (a penalty) and Julian Draxler all got in on the act with second half strikes.
Fifth tier outfit Pontivy had the makings of giant killers and looked the part in the first half when only Jule's own goal could separate the sides. PSG stepped up a gear in the second half and the hosts were unable to match that, so the Ligue 1 leaders logically ran out comfortable winners. Not only was Les Parisiens' passage to the next round relatively straightforward, it came with no major injury concerns -- a relief for Tuchel after he gave his players extended holiday time.
Although expected against such inferior opposition, Neymar did very well in his first match back after injury and holiday and respected Pontivy by getting involved and making two key contributions with his goal and assist.
Although Tuchel's desire to avoid Coupe de France humiliation was understandable, particularly after Marseille's pathetic exit at the hands of Andrezieux earlier in the day, the German tactician could perhaps have used a few more youth academy talents.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- That said, Tuchel had a limited number of players to choose from with some expected back only on Monday and others injured or unavailable. All things considered, the former Borussia Dortmund and Mainz 05 boss masterminded a smooth start to 2019.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Alphonse Areola, 6 -- A solid enough start to the new year between the sticks in his first outings since committing his long-term future to the club and it was symbolic to see Thiago Silva hand him the captain's armband towards the end.
DF Thomas Meunier, 5 -- Not at his best going forward, nor at the back, but that did not matter as he was not troubled as much as Layvin Kurzawa on the left.
DF Thiago Silva, 6 -- Commanding, despite the relatively simple nature of the final score, he bailed central defensive partner Stanley N'Soki out a number of times as he struggled to find his feet until the latter stages.
DF Stanley N'Soki, 5 -- Booked and largely suffered in a rare start but picked up towards the end and finished the match with confidence.
DF Layvin Kurzawa, 4 -- Back after a long period out through injury, he was booked and endured a torrid evening as he was targeted by Pontivy, so it was no surprise that Tuchel withdrew him after 63 minutes.
MF Dani Alves, 6 -- Played further forward than usual, he was lively and was the intended target for Neymar's ball in which resulted in the opening goal through the unfortunate Jule.
MF Thilo Kehrer, 6 -- He followed teammate Marquinhos' example with a mature display despite not occupying one set role.
MF Christopher Nkunku, 5 -- Taken off after 63 minutes, it appears that he finally needs a loan move to continue his progress -- or more minutes as part of stronger PSG XIs.
MF Julian Draxler, 6 -- Took his goal well late on and will have been happy to start 2019 in scoring fashion as he continues his charm offensive on compatriot Tuchel.
FW Kylian Mbappe, 6 -- Quiet for large parts of the game, he still won a penalty towards the end and dusted himself off to take it and score with Neymar's permission.
FW Neymar, 8 -- With a goal, an assist and a booking, he was involved and looked surprisingly sharp after his pre-Christmas injury scares. An encouraging start to 2019 and one that Tuchel will hope continues through PSG's packed approaching schedule.
DF Kevin Rimane, 5 -- Sent on to solidify things at the back as it took a while for the second goal to arrive through Neymar and he did just that.
MF Moussa Diaby, 7 -- Given 27 minutes, he used the time wisely by making a key contribution in setting Neymar up to make it 2-0 in another illustration of why he now deserves greater game time.
DF Juan Bernat, NR -- Although he only came on for Silva nine minutes from time, he still managed to get himself a yellow card.