In 5-0 defeat of Celtic, Edinson Cavani burns brightest of PSG's stars
GLASGOW, Scotland -- Neymar and Kylian Mbappe made their UEFA Champions League debuts for Paris Saint-Germain in a 5-0 demolition of Celtic on Tuesday, but strike partner Edinson Cavani outshone both stars with two goals as the French capital outfit went straight to the top of Group B.
Neymar needed just 19 minutes to open the scoring at Celtic Park. Played in by the impressive Adrien Rabiot after he got in behind the host's defence, the Brazilian superstar took a touch before finishing high into Craig Gordon's net.
"We are really happy with the performance and the result," Neymar told journalists in the mixed zone after the match. "It is a good win and very important for the rest of the competition and the season.
"There is a good understanding between us in attack but it is easier to play with great players -- it is always fun. It makes work easier for everyone."
PSG's second score involved Neymar, Cavani and Mbappe -- even if it was not quite a combined effort from the trio.
Neymar cushioned down a deep Marco Verratti cross with his head and found Cavani, but the Uruguay international failed to connect with the ball.
Luckily for Cavani, the Frenchman was following up and Mbappe crashed the ball in to become the first teenager to score for two different clubs in the Champions League.
"It is an exceptional attack and yes, we are lucky to have them," Verratti said after the match. "Other teams also have very important players in attack. We know that these sorts of players can decide matches at any moment.
"We have one of the best attacks in Europe and for our opponents, it is not easy to defend against these three phenomenal players."
By half-time, Cavani had joined Neymar and Mbappe on the scoresheet. Jozo Simunovic was booked for bringing El Matador down after Layvin Kurzawa overhit his cross, and Cavani scored the resulting penalty to make himself PSG's leading European scorer with 21 goals.
Coach Unai Emery was happy with his star men in attack against Celtic but knows that he is also entitled to expect more from the talented trio.
"My attackers? They look for each other, they swap positions well," the Spaniard told his postmatch news conference. "They will progress even more."
It took until seven minutes from time but there was a fourth goal for Les Parisiens. Julian Draxler, on as a second half substitute in place of Rabiot, weaved in and out of the home defence before causing panic with a low cross that earned a goal via the unlucky Mikael Lustig.
The introduction of the Germany international saw PSG switch from their possession-based 4-3-3 formation to a more attacking 4-2-3-1 but chairman and CEO Nasser Al-Khelaifi would not be drawn on other clubs' opinions of the Ligue 1 giants' attacking unit.
"Are we more fearsome with this attack? I do not know, you must ask other clubs," said the Qatari chief in the mixed zone. "We respect all of our opponents, though. We want to focus simply on our club and our players.
"Yes, we signed two great players [Neymar and Mbappe] to score and play the way they did here. However, this was not only down to this pair -- everyone played well. We want to continue to work hard each day. I know it is tough but our goal is to play like that every match."
Cavani completed the scoring with the pick of PSG's goals on the night. Kurzawa put in another deep cross and after seeing the No. 9 ruled offside when he scored in the first half, the France international put a perfect cross onto his teammate's head from which the Uruguay international netted a magnificent diving header.
Speaking with journalists after the final whistle, Cavani hailed Neymar, Mbappe and some of his other teammates as "fantastic."
"In every team I have played with and of all of the attackers I have played with, each one was different," said the 30-year-old. "I know that I play with some absolutely fantastic players -- I must enjoy this.
"I need to remain humble and continue in this current vein to help us maintain our great start to the season."
Cavani also denied that he, Neymar and Mbappe might start to compete to see who can score the most goals over the course of the season.
"If we start to compete to see who scores the most goals, I think we might disrupt the team's concentration across all competitions," Cavani said. "I spoke with my teammates the other day and the most important thing is to play as a team, to defend this team and these colours as if we had always supported the club. If we do that, we can win important things."
Neymar detracted a little from his performance with a couple of uncharacteristic missed opportunities, an unnecessary yellow card and some trash talk with Celtic's Anthony Ralston. But otherwise, it was an ideal start to life for the Brazil international, Mbappe and Cavani.
Considering Draxler's cameo appearance and Rabiot's niggling adductor problem, Emery could be tempted to stick with 4-2-3-1 for the visit of Olympique Lyonnais to Parc des Princes in Ligue 1 this Sunday.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.