PARIS (Reuters) – Paris St Germain got their Champions League campaign back on track with a 6-1 home rout of Serbian side Red Star Belgrade on Wednesday as Brazil forward Neymar lit up a lop-sided Group C clash with a hat-trick.
Angel Di Maria, Edinson Cavani and France World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe added a goal each as the French champions ripped into 1991 European Cup winners Red Star, who were spared a heavier defeat by goalkeeper Milan Borjan.
The result left PSG on three points from two games after their opening 3-2 defeat by Liverpool, who visit Napoli in the group’s 1900 GMT kick off. Napoli were held to a surprise 0-0 draw at Red Star in their opening match.
The outcome was also Red Star’s heaviest defeat in Europe, ending their 38-match unbeaten run in all competitions stretching back to last season.
Despite the obvious gulf in class, PSG coach Thomas Tuchel praised his team for keeping up a high tempo which barely allowed the visitors to get out of their own half and singled out the outstanding Neymar.
“We’ve improved our intensity in every game and you saw that tonight,” Tuchel told a news conference.
“Neymar is one of the best players in Europe. We have several of the best in our team — not just Neymar. We’ve won lots of games because we have the best players, but also because we were the best team. That’s very important.”
It was one-way traffic from the start as the home side raced into a 2-0 lead with two goals in two minutes as Neymar curled a delightful free kick past Borjan in the 20th minute before he converted a fine run and pass by Mbappe.
Cavani made it 3-0 with a deflected shot from inside the penalty area in the 37th minute before Di Maria added a fourth from close range after Thomas Meunier floated in a superb pass with the outside of his foot.
In between the goals and early in the second half, Borjan pulled off a string of superb saves to deny Neymar and Mbappe on multiple occasions as PSG carved open Red Star’s defence at will, with Mbappe also guilty of some sloppy finishing.
Mbappe finally found the back of the net in the 70th minute after a dazzling move involving Neymar and Juan Bernat left the 19-year-old with a simple tap in from six metres.
Red Star, playing in the competition’s group stages for the first time, scored their maiden goal on the big stage when midfielder Marko Marin buried a shot from 12 metres into the top corner in his team’s first purposeful move.
Borjan could only offer a wry smile when Neymar put the icing on the cake of a brilliant individual performance as he unleashed another breathtaking free kick from 30 metres in the 81st minute before he was substituted.
Cavani had the ball in the back of the net again shortly afterwards but the goal was disallowed for a marginal offside as PSG kept their feet on the pedal until the final whistle.
(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Toby Davis)