Messi without Mbappe & Neymar for the first time: PSG stumbles in Ligue 1

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Perhaps the 34-year-old version of Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi can’t win games singlehandedly like he used to. Or maybe he still needs time to show he can do it in a new league with his new team Paris Saint-Germain.

The Argentine superstar was the only one of the club’s three superstars available to face a Lorient team that sits second from bottom in Ligue 1. With Neymar out injured and Kylian Mbappe suspended, it was on Messi to carry the load, but his PSG team struggled in a 1-1 road draw with the equalizer only coming in stoppage time.

Messi lined up in the PSG attack alongside compatriots Angel Di Maria and Mauro Icardi, but the Ligue 1 bout against 16th-placed Lorient proved anything but simple.

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PSG was headed to an embarrassing 1-0 defeat at the hands of Lorient, before the last-gasp equalizer from Icardi saved further embarrassment. Still, Messi was invisible for large portions of the match, and the performance will further trouble the French giants, who are still hoping to compete for a UEFA Champions League title this season.

Lorient led at the break thanks to a 40th-minute screamer by Thomas Monconduit, but it was worse for PSG than the scoreline suggested. It wasn’t a case of Messi’s team being stunned by a great goal in a game it otherwise dominated — PSG was well and truly the lesser side.

Despite nearly 80 percent possession for PSG, Lorient racked up 11 shots to PSG’s six in the first half alone, with nine chances created to PSG’s three.

The early sign that it wasn’t going to be the Ligue 1 leaders’ day came when Icardi, who has been relegated to bench duty for much of the season, missed a big chance just two minutes in from point-blank range.

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As for Messi, he was feeding on scraps in the first half, with just a single shot before the break, a 26th minute effort that hit the right post. He played creator in the second half, opening up the Lorient defense and teeing up international teammate Di Maria with a glorious opportunity, but he skied it over the bar with the goal gaping.

Messi was denied himself in the 80th minute, seeing a looping effort from the right side of the penalty area well saved by diving ‘keeper Paul Nardi.

PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino brought Sergio Ramos off the bench to shore up the back line, but that didn’t end well either. After a futile second-half that still left PSG misfiring in front of net and wasting chances,

🟥🔥 Sergio Ramos is sent off after receiving a second yellow card!

🍿 Watch Lorient 🆚 PSG LIVE NOW on beIN SPORTS! #FCLPSG 🇫🇷pic.twitter.com/geqSAhI09f

— beIN SPORTS USA (@beINSPORTSUSA) December 22, 2021

“>Ramos was sent off, collecting his second yellow card in just a four-minute stretch. The red is Ramos’s first with PSG, after just 130 minutes of action for the club.

Messi finished the match with four shots taken (two on target, including the woodwork struck), combining for a disappointing total expected goals count of 0.24 xG, according to FotMob. On the creativity front, though he had the one key pass to Di Maria, Messi ended the match with a zero in the chances created column.

Overall, PSG ended with a massive 77 percent possessional advantage and out-passed Lorient 717-171, but finished level on shots and with one less chance created. Lorient remains in the relegation zone with 16 points, while PSG is still comfortably in first place with nearly three times as many points (46).

In a match Messi was meant to star for his new club, it went about as poorly as it could have.

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