Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe were unleashed together for the first time but Paris Saint-Germain had to settle for a 1-1 Champions League draw at Club Brugge.
Mauricio Pochettino started with his formidable attacking trio at Jan Breydel Stadion on Wednesday, with Mbappe teeing up Ander Herrera for the opener after a mazy run on the left flank.
Many may have expected Brugge to crumble, however, they responded through Hans Vanaken’s fifth goal in eight games in the competition.
Mbappe was forced off in the second half with a slight foot problem as PSG, despite their embarrassment of attacking riches, failed to kick-off their Group A campaign with a win.
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) September 15, 2021
The visitors started brightly, Mbappe dancing past Clinton Mata before finding Herrera, who opened the scoring after 15 minutes with a first-time left-footed strike into the bottom-left corner.
Mbappe should have added a goal of his own after being rolled through by Messi but his right-footed drive was beaten away by Simon Mignolet.
Brugge then stunned the star-studded away side, with Eduard Sobol driving down the left flank before cutting back to the penalty spot, where Vanaken powered past Keylor Navas for his seventh goal in the Champions League – the most in his club’s history.
Messi looked to respond immediately but his left-footed strike smashed against the crossbar before Vanaken and Charles de Ketelaere were both denied by smart Navas saves.
Brugge almost took the lead after the break through Jack Hendry but Presnel Kimpembe produced an important last-ditch block, with Mbappe limping off moments later following a challenge from Stanley N’Soki.
Noa Lang acrobatically volleyed wide in another fright for PSG before substitute Nuno Mendes found Messi, who spurned a glorious opportunity to win the game as he blasted over.
What does it mean? Formidable front three combine but PSG defensively frail again
Prior to the trip to Belgium, Mbappe (37), Messi (36) and Neymar (31) accounted for half of the players to have recorded 30-plus goal involvements in the Champions League across the last four campaigns.
With Brugge the victims of a 5-0 demolition the last time they hosted PSG, another rout – led by their world-class trio – would have been expected following Herrera’s opener.
However, the hosts responded excellently to earn a memorable point, exploiting Pochettino’s defensive woes to hold the visitors to just a second draw in seven appearances against Belgian opposition in the competition.
Herrera remains Pochettino’s midfield man
Pochettino hauled off Georginio Wijnaldum and Leandro Paredes at half-time after an underwhelming first half.
However, he left on goalscorer Herrera, who completed a game-high 87 passes and recorded 113 touches – another game-leading figure – in an impressive showing from the Spanish midfielder.
Ketelaere may not have grabbed a goal or an assist but he remained a constant thorn in Marquinhos and Kimpembe’s side.
The forward provided five key passes – two more than any other player on the pitch – while winning 81.8 per cent of his 11 duels and completing over 90 per cent of his passes in the PSG half.
Key Opta Facts
– PSG remain unbeaten against Belgian opposition in the Champions League (P7 W5 D2), scoring 22 goals and conceding just twice.
– The French club have won their opening game in a Champions League campaign in just one of the past four seasons (D1 L2), beating Real Madrid 3-0 in 2019-20.
– PSG have scored at least once in each of their past 33 games in the group stage of the Champions League, a run which began in November 2015. This is the longest ongoing scoring streak in the group stage of the competition.
– Herrera’s opener for PSG was his first ever goal in the Champions League (28th appearance in the competition) – the Spaniard has now scored four goals in his past four games for PSG in all competitions, having netted just two goals in his first 70 appearances for the French side.
– Messi has gone four consecutive Champions League appearances without a victory (D2 L2). Only between March 2006 and February 2007 has he gone longer without a win in the competition (a run of five with Barcelona).
PSG host Lyon on Sunday in Ligue 1, with their next group game against last year’s runners-up Manchester City on September 28. Brugge travel to face Charleroi on Saturday.
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