With a 1-1 tie on the scoreboard and before the fans themselves huddled in thunderous stands, Mauricio Pochettino replaced Messi with Achraf Hakimi after the 70th minute of the classic PSG-Lyon.
The change, in addition to introducing a scheme with five defenses, incorporated a strangely contradictory message.
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Asked about the replacement of Messi, who in the second half was completely blurred, the coach explained that it was an autonomous tactical decision.
"They can't play more than eleven and that's what the coaches are in the band for," Pochettino said at the press conference, before noting the content of the fleeting exchange he had with his countryman.
"I asked him how he was doing and he said 'fine.'
PSG Gianluigi Donnarumma, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Thilo Kehrer, Nuno Mendes, Messi (Achraf Hakimi, min. 75), Di María (Icardi, min. 81), Ander Herrera (Wijnaldum, min. 85), Neymar, Idrissa Gueye and Kylian MbappeLyonAnthony Lopes, Emerson, J. Denayer, Malo Gusto, Boateng (Sinaly Diomande, min. 64), Shaqiri (Mathis Cherki, min. 78), Karl Toko Ekambi (Houssem Aouar, min. 64), Bruno Guimarães, Maxence Caqueret, Lucas Paquetá (Habib Keita, min. 85) and Slimani
53: Lucas Paquetá.
Referee Clément Turpin Yellow cards Di María (min. 5), Marquinhos (min. 66), Anthony Lopes (min. 79) and Nuno Mendes (min. 88)
It was something unusual, in the case of a footballer who in Barcelona and the national team never replaced without his consent. The suffocation of the Argentine, signed free at 34 years of age to complete the dream of Nasser Al-Khelaifi and the princes of Qatar, was evident in the display of gestures he exhibited on the bench. Messi was furious. Pochettino elaborated on his arguments: “We made the decision to avoid a possible injury in the future; important parties are approaching and it is necessary to protect it ”.
Victory will cushion the conflict. But the 2-1 was the product of accidental circumstances rather than the game. Provided with good players such as Paquetá, Emerson, Toko Ekambi and Caqueret, and encouraged by a spirit of solidarity and collectivism, Lyon de Bosz cornered PSG. The team of the stars was swept away by a flood when the referee, Clément Turpin, judged the facts the other way around and whistled the penalty that transformed the game. Then the 0-1 against turned into 1-1, the drama turned into fortune, the logic of football stopped explaining the result, and in the box of authorities of the Park of the Princes the envoys of the emir had to shrug their shoulders before the fickle character of the show they fund.
Only an esoteric penalty allowed PSG to emerge afloat from a game that swallowed it up against Olympique de Lyon on the day of their debut as Messi's, Mbappé and Neymar starters in Ligue 1.
He had scored Paquetá after a fast and punctual counterattack led by Toko Ekambi and Emerson Palmieri.
A combination that caught PSG completely out of place in the act of making a poorly synchronized pressure, with Kherer left to his fate on the right wing and the centrals out of place trying to compensate for the immeasurable spaces of a split midfield.
The 0-1 reflected the reality of a striking contrast.
On the one hand the fluid and coherent game of Lyon, collectively well assembled and very safe with the ball, on the other PSG, dependent on Messi's lucidity to improvise increasingly laborious advances.
Lyon came and finished more, despite the fact that their centrals, Boateng and Denayer, made each decision a lottery.
The visiting team dominated no matter how much Messi made the brightest plays, crashed a shot into the crossbar and put goalkeeper Lopes to the test twice after two heels from Neymar and Mbappé.
"There has been an improvement"
The 1-0 seemed the most natural consequence of the causal chain when Neymar struggled with Gusto in the Lopes area, grabbed him by the neck, and the center-back fell to the ground.
It seemed a foul in attack.
But Turpin declared a penalty.
Without VAR intervention.
Without a shadow of a doubt.
Like old times.
Neymar's goal, celebrated with fury by everyone except Messi, balanced what seemed unbalanced.
The Argentine's replacement barely consolidated PSG defensively against an adversary who insisted on seeking victory with the same poise.
Added time was running out when Mauro Icardi headed a cross from Mbappé at the corner.
The 2-1 unburdened PSG after a night against the current and allowed Pochettino to present an optimistic speech at the press conference.
"I think we played a good game," said Pochettino;
"I think there has been an improvement compared to the Bruges game, against a very good team like Lyon."
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