Paris Saint-Germain left out their biggest stars and survived a scare to progress in the Coupe de France, earning a 3-1 win at Chateauroux on Friday.
An early goal from Hugo Ekitike was cancelled out by Natanael Ntolla before half-time, and PSG had to wait until the 78th minute for Carlos Soler to bundle home for the Ligue 1 side before Juan Bernat added some gloss to the score late on.
Christophe Galtier included 16-year-old Warren Zaire Emery in his much-changed starting line-up, with no Lionel Messi, Neymar or Kylian Mbappe as Ekitike, Pablo Sarabia and Soler were selected in attack.
Chateauroux, who play in the third tier of French football, belied their lowly position of 14th in the Championnat National with a determined showing against their celebrated opponents, but PSG ultimately made it through to the last-32 stage.
79′ – Le deuxième but parisien par @Carlos10Soler !!!
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_inside) January 6, 2023
The visitors took the lead in the 13th minute when Ismael Gharbi’s first-time ball from the edge of the box into the path of Ekitike allowed the young striker to finish neatly in off the left post with the outside of his right foot.
Jonathan Mexique went close for the home side with a close-range shot in the 26th minute that was deflected over by a diving Vitinha, while Paul Delecroix made a good save down to his left from a Gharbi volley shortly after.
The scores were level eight minutes before the break though after neat work down the left ended with former Lille and Saint-Etienne striker Nolan Roux pulling the ball back for Ntolla, whose goal-bound shot was deflected past Keylor Navas by 17-year-old PSG defender El Chadaille Bitshiabu.
Galtier called for more experience in the second half as Sergio Ramos and Fabian Ruiz came on just after the hour, and the coach eventually saw his team re-take the lead as Vitinha stood up a cross to the far post that allowed Ekitike to head at goal, with Soler following up from Delecroix’s initial save.
Bernat made it 3-1 in stoppage time after racing onto a ball from Ruiz and firing low and hard across Delecroix to seal the victory for PSG.
— Coupe de France (@coupedefrance) January 6, 2023
What does it mean? PSG struggle without their star strikers
It was eventually a successful night for PSG, but they made hard work of it and did not particularly look like scoring before Soler and Bernat struck late on.
Galtier made seven changes from the team that lost 3-1 at Lens, including three teenagers. Setting them and 20-year-old Ekitike aside though, it was an experienced line-up including Navas, Marquinhos and Bernat among others.
The lack of familiarity was undoubtedly a factor and they will have Messi, Neymar and Mbappe back soon anyway, but in cup football, a win is all that matters.
Chateauroux show heart
Maxence Flachez’s side gave the Ligue 1 champions a big test, certainly far bigger than many expected.
They fought hard, especially in the second half as they won 59 per cent of their duels, but eventually the greater quality of the Parisians told.
PSG infrequent but sharp shooters
Without their main trio, PSG did not seem to have anyone who wanted to shoot in the early stages of the game, having just five shots in the first hour.
They ended the game with 12 attempts at goal in all, just one more than their opponents, but the accuracy from PSG was far superior, hitting the target with 10 shots while Chateauroux tested Navas just twice from 11.
Chateauroux have a league trip to Red Star FC next Friday, while PSG return to Ligue 1 action at home to Angers on Wednesday.
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