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Neymar wasted no time in making an impact on the field for Paris Saint-Germain, scoring on his debut in a 3-0 win at Guingamp on Sunday and declaring himself to be “feeling more alive than ever”.
The Brazilian world record signing was handed a start by coach Unai Emery for the game in Brittany, two days after international clearance came through for his 222 million-euro ($261 million) switch from Barcelona.
The 25-year-old, at home in PSG’s all yellow change kit, played a part in the own goal scored by Jordan Ikoko that gave the away side the lead early in the second half.
He then set up the second goal for Edinson Cavani with a superb pass in behind the Guingamp defence before completing a comfortable victory with his team’s third goal eight minutes from the end as PSG made it two wins from two to start the French season.
“People think that leaving Barça is to die, but no, it’s the opposite,” Neymar told reporters.
“I’m more alive than ever. I play, I’m very happy, and football is the same. Only the country, the city and the team change, but football is the same.”
Despite the many distractions of the last couple of weeks, including trips to China, Portugal and the French Riviera and glitzy presentations to the media and PSG fans, Neymar lasted the full 90 minutes.
He had taken the place of Javier Pastore in the Paris side in the only change from last week’s 2-0 win over Amiens, completing a 350 million-euro front three with fellow South Americans Cavani and Angel Di Maria.
Neymar was one of four Brazilians in the PSG line-up, not including Brazil-born Italy midfielder Thiago Motta, for the game played before a sell-out crowd at the 18,000-capacity Stade du Roudourou.
Guingamp, a sleepy little town 500 kilometres west of Paris with a population of barely 7,000, may have been a slightly incongruous setting for such an occasion but the match was broadcast live in more than 180 countries according to his new club.
That was a sign of the interest generated worldwide by Neymar’s transfer, which Qatar-owned PSG hope will help them conquer Europe after so far coming up short in the Champions League in recent seasons.
– ‘Quality players’ –
Emery’s side are also desperate to regain the French crown after losing out to Monaco last season.
“I’m very happy. The main thing was to win. The team played well and I played well,” Neymar, speaking in Spanish, told Canal Plus, after the match.
“We are trying to improve all the time and we’ll get to know each other better yet, but it is easy to play with players of such quality.
“It is always very important to score, not just in the first game. I am very calm. This is a very big challenge for me as a person, but we have a great team and the season has just started.”
Neymar, playing mainly as an inside left, threatened sporadically in the opening stages before his cross in the 35th minute found compatriot Marquinhos, who headed against the woodwork.
He then watched as a Cavani free-kick was tipped over by Karl-Johan Johnsson as the first half ended goalless.
But PSG needed just seven minutes of the second half to get the breakthrough with Neymar involved in the build-up as Ikoko — a former PSG player — tried to play the ball back to Johnsson and succeeded only in passing it into his own net.
Neymar then released Cavani with a delightful pass as the Uruguayan slotted home the second goal just after the hour mark.
All that was missing was a goal of his own and that arrived eight minutes from the end as Neymar finished from close range following a Cavani cutback.
PSG are second in the fledgling table, behind Lyon on goal difference. They are one of five teams to have maximum points after two games.Read more
Athletics greats Allyson Felix and Caster Semenya lit up the track to bring the curtain down on the world championships in great style on Sunday.However, not for the first time, but certainly the last as an athlete, Usain Bolt stole the show.Retiring s…Read more
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Elina Svitolina crushed Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-0 to win the Toronto WTA trophy on Sunday, capturing her fifth title of 2017 and her second final of the season over the former world number one.Fifth seed Svitolina, of the Ukraine, needed just 77 minu…Read more
Allyson Felix won her 16th world career medal as the United States won the 4x400m relay on Sunday.Felix ran an outstanding second lap as the quartet, also comprising Quanera Hayes, Shakima Wimbley and Phyllis Francis, timed 3min 19.02. Britain, in 3:25…Read more
The United States expressed sadness and horror Sunday over the killing of seven members of Syria’s White Helmets rescue service in a jihadist-held town near Idlib.The seven were killed Saturday by unidentified assailants in a raid on their base in Sarm…Read more
South African Caster Semenya, dogged by gender accusations since shooting to fame in 2009, won a third world title in the women’s 800m on Sunday.Semenya, the defending Olympic champion and also world champion in 2009 and 2011, timed 1min 55.16sec, the …Read more
French discus thrower Melina Robert-Michon, who won Olympic bronze in Rio last year, added another bronze to her career medal tally at Sunday’s World Athletics Championships in London.Read more