Paris Saint-Germain played Neymar for the first time on their Asia tour, and the Frenchman proved his worth by scoring the opening goal.
PSG took a 1-0 halftime lead in the third leg of their Coupang Play series against Jeonbuk Hyundai on Wednesday at the Asiad Stadium in Busan, South Korea.
The match was the final leg of PSG’s Asian tour ahead of the 2023/24 season, and the club will return to France immediately afterward to prepare for its Ligue 1 opener against Lorient on Wednesday.
While this is a pre-season game with no bearing on the season, PSG will need to turn things around if they want to get off to a good start in the upcoming campaign. In their first game, they drew 0-0 against Alnas, and then came from behind to lose 2-3 against Cerezo Osaka, a team that was considered to be an underdog. They followed that up with a 1-2 reverse at Inter Milan on the first day, bringing their record to one draw and two losses in three games.
PSG coach Luis Enrique started Gianluigi Donnarumma in goal, while Lebeng Kurzawa, Sharif Naga, Juan Bernat, and Danilo Pereira formed the backline.
Marco Verratti, Cher N’Dour, and Ethan Mbappe started in the middle of the park, while Hugo Ekiti, Neymar, and Ismael Garvey were the front three.
After initially being a doubt, Neymar delighted the Korean fans by returning to the squad after missing three consecutive games on the Japan tour.
Jeonbuk head coach Dan Petrescu gave Jeong Min-ki the goalkeeping gloves, with Petrasek, Hong Jeong-ho, Park Chang-woo, and Ahn Hyun-beom in the back four. Ryu Jae-moon and Boateng partnered in the midfield, while Han Kyo-won, Park Jae-yong, Hapa Silva, and Moon Sun-min made up the forward line.
As the players entered the stadium before kickoff, the stadium erupted in cheers as Neymar, who had been named in the starting lineup, appeared on the scoreboard. Neymar took the field with a smile on his face and greeted the players before getting ready to play. The fans then cheered when Lee Kang-in was shown on the scoreboard sitting on the bench.
It was Jeonbuk, not PSG, who took the first kickoff. Jeonbuk pressed hard from the start, pushing up into PSG’s territory and earning corner kicks, but were unable to capitalize on their chances.
In the sixth minute of the first half, a mistake by the PSG defense gave Han Kyo-won and Hapa Silva a chance to shoot from the front of the PSG penalty box, but Han Kyo-won’s pass to the center was deflected out of play.
PSG took control of the game through Neymar. Neymar threatened in the 10th minute when he dribbled past three defenders inside the Jeonbuk penalty box.
In the 11th minute, Ekitiqe dribbled past one defender in front of the arc of the Jeonbuk penalty box and attempted a low, quick shot that went wide of the goal.
Jeonbuk took advantage of Moon Sun-min’s lightness of touch. In the 13th minute, Moon made a solo dribble to the arc of the PSG penalty box and attempted a mid-range shot, but he couldn’t get enough power on his shot and it went straight at Donnarumma.
Midway through the first half, PSG began to press Jeonbuk. Neymar came close to creating a threatening chance in the 20th minute when he broke through the opposition’s pressure, only to be pushed down by the defense and not called for a foul.
PSG were also threatened by Jeonbuk’s pressure in their own penalty box in the 33rd minute, but excellent passing from Danilu, Bernat, and N’Dour allowed them to break free from the pressure, much to the delight of the fans.
Neymar was relentless in his pursuit of the Jeonbuk goal. In the 37th minute, he directly threatened Jeonbuk’s goal with a mid-range shot that was saved. Afterward, as he approached the corner flag to take a corner kick, Neymar waved to the fans nearby in a superstar display of fan service.
The first goal also came from Neymar’s toes. In the 40th minute, Neymar dribbled inside the Jeonbuk penalty box with three defenders in front of him before firing a low, quick shot that hit a defender’s body, deflected and rattled the Jeonbuk net. After Neymar’s goal, the Frenchman continued to dribble threateningly to create scoring chances but was denied by the defense.
PSG continued to try to break through the Jeonbuk defense with Neymar, but they were unable to find a decisive shot. In the end, the first half ended with a 1-0 lead for PSG.
After sitting on the bench for most of the first half, Lee was greeted with cheers from the crowd whenever he appeared on the scoreboard, raising hopes of a second half appearance.
Meanwhile, the match also saw Neymar return to the starting lineup for the first time in three tours of Asia, much to the delight of the Korean fans.
Luis Enrique also spoke directly about the availability of Lee Kang-in and Neymar, who had not played in the previous Asian tour, with Lee being named to the substitutes’ bench and Neymar to the starting lineup.
Speaking at the pre-match press conference, Enrique said of Lee: “He’s in good shape to play, he’ll definitely play tomorrow. I don’t know how many minutes he’ll play, but he’ll play tomorrow,” he said, declining to give a timeframe, but confirming that he will play 먹튀검증.
On Neymar, he added: “Neymar is in the final stages of his return to the team. He’s recovered now. He’s in good shape, he’s in great shape physically. He’s been training with the team for more than a week and he could play tomorrow, but we won’t know until tomorrow if he’s going to play or not,” he said, adding that Neymar’s chances of playing are good.
Neymar eventually made it into the starting lineup and entertained the fans in Busan throughout the first half, while Lee Kang-indo was also ready for the second half.
Lee Kang-in and Neymar were the center of attention during PSG’s visit to Busan. The two players have shown off their chemistry within PSG since their arrival and open training sessions.
Neymar’s chemistry with Lee was evident during the arrival ceremony on the second day of the tour, and when the fans chanted Lee’s name during the open training session, Neymar walked over to Lee, grabbed his wrist and waved.
Neymar and Lee have already been spotted joking around together in photos and videos released by PSG throughout their Asian tour.
In a PSG training video, Lee and Neymar can be seen joking around with each other. In a rondo drill, which involves standing in a circle and passing the ball around, Lee, who was the passer, failed to clear a pass and, when he became the passer again, walked up to Neymar and kicked him in the butt. Both Lee and Neymar had a good laugh, which helped lighten the mood of the training session.
It’s unclear if Neymar will be able to play in the second half, but if Lee Kang-in and Neymar are on the field at the same time, it will draw even more attention from fans.