Alves stars as PSG make it five in a row!
By S. Willis
Paris Saint-Germain came from a goal down to beat reigning Ligue 1 Conforama champions AS Monaco 2-1 in the Trophée des Champions, a superb free-kick and an assist from new signing Dani Alves doing the damage.
Grand Stade de Tanger, Morocco
AS Monaco 1 - 2 Paris Saint-Germain
Saturday's 2017-18 season curtain-raiser gave every indication that Ligue 1 Conforama fans can look forward to an exciting title race this season, with Paris Saint-Germain getting the better of AS Monaco in a thrilling come-from-behind battle in Tanger, Morocco and claiming their fith consecutive Trophée des Champions in front of a sell-out 45,000-strong crowd at the Grand Stade in Tangier, Morocco.
Despite some big-name departures in the off-season, Leonardo Jardim's side had lost none of the pace and precision that saw them run away with the Ligue 1 Conforama title last season, and it was they who drew first blood. France right-back Djibril Sidibé - who has been directly involved in at least one goal in every one of his last five meetings with PSG - raced onto the excellent Youri Tielemans' through-pass to chip the ball deftly over the on-rushing Alphonse Areola (30').
Teenage sensation Kylian Mbappé almost made it 2-0 minutes later as PSG were caught out pushing forward for an equaliser, but a timely block from Brazil stopper Marquinhos kept Paris within a goal of their rivals, paving the way for the capital club's rousing second-half performance.
The Dani Alves show
Paris had bossed possession in the opening term but Monaco's defence had limited their chances on goal. However, when Paris were awarded a free kick 35 metres out, Dani Alves stepped up and fired a glorious knuckle-ball shot past Danijel Subasic at his near post (51').
The former Barcelona star, played on the right-hand side of attack in a 4-4-3 rather than in his customary right-back position, wasn't about to leave it there. Combining neatly with Thomas Meunier to break down the right, his lofted cross fell perfectly for youngster Adrien Rabiot to nod home unopposed for what turned out to be the winner (63').
Not that Monaco didn't push for a leveller - Guido Carrillo's header drew a deft low save from Areola before Thiago Silva tackled Allan Saint-Maximin out of a follow-up (81') and captain Radamel Falcao's nod - also set up by the excellent Lemar - flew just wide (88').
THE PLAYER: Dani Alves
Despite the wealth of young talent on display - the likes of Mbappé, Rabiot, Fabinho and Thomas Lemar to name a few - it was Brazil veteran and PSG debutant Dani Alves who took the match by the scruff of the neck and forged a result, slapping home a glorious free-kick and setting up Rabiot for the winner.
At 34, the right-back is no spring chicken, but it is precisely his age and experience at the highest level - not to mention his fiercely competitive spirit - that the club hopes will help take Unai Emery's side to the next level. And if Saturday's performance was anything to go by, that's exactly what will happen.
THE STAT: 5
Paris Saint-Germain have won the last five Trophées des Champions on offer, taking their all-time total to seven pre-season titles - level with Olympique Lyonnais, who won six in a row between 2002 and 2007 before adding a seventh in 2012. This latest trophy takes Paris Saint-Germain - France's most successful club - to 33 titles overall and 16 since the arrival of Qatari owners QSi in 2011.