Quentin Merlin, Nantes, PSG
Match Reports

Merlin conjures the magic for Nantes against PSG

Merlin conjures the magic for Nantes against PSG

Match Reports
Publish on 02/19 at 22:58

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Randal Kolo Muani, Quentin Merlin and Ludovic Blas got the goals as FC Nantes stunned Paris Saint-Germain with a thumping 3-1 win at the Stade de la Beaujoire on Saturday.

THE MATCH

 

FC Nantes 3-1 Paris Saint-Germain

 

PSG lined up with a front three of Kylian Mbappé, Lionel Messi and Neymar Jr. for the first time since November, but it was Nantes who found their cutting edge, Kolo Muani poking home Moses Simon's pass after les Canaris had hit their visitors on the counter (4'). Messi nearly levelled things up moments later, but his lofted attempt was well read by Alban Lafont (7'). Nantes looked far from the team that began the day nine places and 24 points off PSG's league-setting pace, though, and Andrei Girotto then had Keylor Navas scrambling to save a drive from range (12'). Nantes didn't have to wait long for their second, Merlin curling the ball into the far top corner to leave Navas with no chance (16'). Mbappé then nearly scored a clone of his winner against Real Madrid last Tuesday, but unlike Thibault Courtois, Lafont proved equal to it (19'). Messi teed up Idrissa Gueye for another chance but again Lafont stood firm (26'). Lafont then pulled off a stunning reaction save to deny Neymar (28') before Dennis Appiah was spared a red card for a foul on Mbappé after VAR review (45'). There was still time for a Blas penalty (45'+6) and Nantes carried a 3-0 lead into the break.

 

Neymar up then down

 

Mauricio Pochettino - scouted by opposite number Antoine Kombouaré before signing for PSG as a player in 2001 - resisted the urge to ring the changes at the interval, and he was rewarded initially for his faith in Neymar, the Brazilian clawing one back soon after the restart (47'). A Moses cross at the other end was only inches away from being converted by Kolo Muani (57'), though, as Nantes refused to surrender their ascendance. That even extended to Lafont saving a Neymar penalty which Mbappé had earned (59'). Jean-Charles Castelletto then flashed a shot high of Navas's goal (66') as Nantes showed no fear. On the rare occasion that Lafont was beaten - Mbappé quick feet and speed leaving him stranded - Girotto got back to clear (69'). Nothing would come off for PSG, Mbappé skying over the bar after getting the break of the ball (73') rather summing up their evening. Pochettino sent Julian Draxler then Angel Di Maria into the fray in an attempt to knock a brick from the Maison Jaune defence and they nearly managed when a Di Maria corner missed Marco Verratti by inches at the back post (75'). It was ultimately to no avail, though, and Nantes held on for a famous win.

 

THE PLAYER: Alban Lafont

 

Kolo Muani, Merlin and Blas may have got the goals but this was an absolutely stunning performance from Lafont. Not many players can say they have denied the three best attackers in the game over a 90-minute period, but Lafont stared down each of Mbappé, Messi and Neymar and won. A 36-time France youth international, it is surely only a matter of time before the 23-year-old becomes the long-term successor to Hugo Lloris for the senior side.

 

THE STAT: 3

 

PSG conceded three goals inside the first 20 minutes for just the third time in the QSI era. On the previous two occasions (May 2012 against Valenciennes FC and January 2020 against AS Monaco), they battled back for at least a share of the points, beating the former 4-3 and drawing 3-3 with the latter.