Neymar the saviour

Paris, September 23

Neymar scored a fine late winner as Paris Saint-Germain beat Lyon 1-0 to move three points clear at the top of the Ligue 1 table.

The Brazilian finally beat Anthony Lopes, who had pulled off numerous impressive saves, with three minutes of normal time on Sunday to play at the Groupama Stadium. It was Neymar’s second winning goal in as many league games since being reinstated to the team following a protracted transfer saga which saw him attempt to force through a return to Barcelona.

“Neymar can do better,” said PSG coach Thomas Tuchel. “It’s the second or third game in four months for him. He’s not at 100 percent capacity, “ he added. “He is not at his limit. He can do better, he will do better. He’s going to get to his best level, with matches and decisive goals like that, it’s going to help him.” 

The Parisians sit top on 15 points after Angers and Nice both won over the weekend to temporarily join Tuchel’s side at the summit, and followed up their impressive midweek Champions League victory over Real Madrid with the win in constant drizzling rain in Lyon.

Madrid bounce back

Madrid: Real Madrid eased the pressure on Zinedine Zidane and delivered a resounding response to their loss to Paris Saint-Germain by winning 1-0 away at Sevilla in La Liga on Sunday.

Karim Benzema headed in the decisive goal at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan to secure an impressive victory against a Sevilla side that were unbeaten and hoping to return to the top of the table.

Instead, it is Madrid that go level on points with Athletic Bilbao in first place after a controlled and determined performance that was by some distance their best since Zidane’s return as coach in March. 

“We have had a quite difficult time but the players reacted,” Zidane said.

His position had come under scrutiny after Madrid’s woeful 3-0 defeat by PSG in the Champions League on Wednesday, a result that continued their bumpy start to the season, following a turbulent summer in the transfer market. But this win should do wonders for belief and leaves Barcelona as Spain’s chief club in crisis, with Ernesto Valverde under pressure after they were beaten by Granada. Madrid are now four points clear of the Catalans after five games played. 

“I am very happy as people have been questioning us a lot,” said Zidane. “But we don’t think much about that. We played 90 minutes at a very high level in a difficult stadium. We must congratulate all the players.” 

Not for the first time this season, Zidane singled out Gareth Bale for praise. “Hard work was the key,” he said. “The effort made by James, Gareth, all of them.” 

Sevilla’s newly-installed coach Julen Lopetegui was sacked by Madrid 11 months ago, 139 days after taking the job that cost him the chance to lead Spain at the World Cup. He insisted on Saturday there was no desire for revenge but it is hard to imagine victory would not have brought a little extra satisfaction. 

Zidane was asked about his own future as well, several times, and while he maintained he still feels the full backing of the club, there was a warning too. If support dwindles, he said, “then it would probably be best to leave”. — AFP