PSG returned to Ligue 1 competition hosting and defeating Strasbourg 2-1 at the Parc des Princes. The matchup felt like an easy one on paper with RCSA sitting second-last in the table but it took Paris Saint-Germain a full 90-minute effort to defeat their last opponent of the 2022 calendar year.
After a month and a half out of commission, France football finally came back with the first slate of games pertaining to the first-ever French Boxing Day. PSG closed the day hosting Strasbourg at the Parc and defeating them two goals to one.
Coach Christophe Galtier used a starting XI featuring three of the four highest-quality internationals with all of Neymar, Mbappe, and Marquinhos making the cut while Hakimi remained on the bench.
Truth be told and after all was said and done, Neymar could have very well stayed in Brazil until mid-January and things wouldn't have changed that much. In fact, they might have even gone better for PSG in their return to Ligue 1 competition.
Donnaruma started in goal, along with a defensive line shaped around Marquinhos and Sergio Ramos in the middle, Nordi Mukiele on the right flank, and titi El Chadaille Bitshiabu on the left side.
Gigio had a nice outing without being too much on demand and saving what he had (and could) save. Other than Marquinho's own goal, which came on an out-of-the-blue, unexpected, and unstoppable deflection, he did all one could ask him for.
Kylian Mbappe scored the deciding penalty kick and earned PSG three more points after 94 shameful minutes
At the end of the day, literally, it all came down to (who else?) Kylian Mbappe scoring (what else?) from the penalty spot to save PSG from utter disgrace.
After Neymar connected with him earlier in the second half only for Mbappe to not complete a goalscoring chance, the Brazilian no. 10 got two yellow cards in the span of two minutes, was sent home early, and actually packed his bags before the game was over bolting out the Parc before the final whistle was blown by the ref. Talk about a locker room leader.
It should have been Marquinhos who finished the game with a brace (he put PSG up with a header by the 14th minute of play) but the ref denied him that honor by "awarding" Paris Saint-Germain a penalty instead of leaving Marquinhos' goal on the scoreboard.
Kylian Mbappe, stubborn as he is, took the ball and kicked the penatly himself to get all plaudits and cheers from the fans live on location watching at the Parc while poor Marquinhos went to sleep having scored two goals... only one of them in his own goal.
After 94 minutes of playing time, the scoreboard settled at 2-1 and wouldn't move from there with PSG having given Strasbourg all of the time in the world to enjoy the sweet taste of drawing a game against the leaders. Until they ran out of time, of course, but putting Paris against the very proverbial ropes.
Without Messi and with Neymar more worried about missing the game against Lens on Jan. 1 rather than contributing to PSG upon his return, Paris Saint-Germain struggled more than they should have to face the second-to-last team in the table.
El Chadaille Bitshiabu was fantastic in his Ligue 1 debut as a starter -- to the extent such a player can be excellent given the stakes and the stage -- though he surely lacked punch on offense.
Another one lacking punch was Hugo Ekitike, who is looking more like a wasted bag of money each passing matchday. Ekitike, signed this summer after nouveau riche Newcastle didn't quite pull the trigger, feels a level or four below his teammates.
Strasbourg scored in the 51st minute and that brought quite a bit of tension to the Parc. A tension that couldn't be released until nearly 51 more minutes after that, with PSG saving face with a last-gasp effort, from the spot, and after a rather dubious set of decisions made by the referee.
Again, against the 19th-place team in the league.
PSG finished the day ahead of the pack as it's been the case all year long and is still looking at all other French clubs from above their shoulder, sitting in the first position with 44 points and eight clear of second-place Lens (with a game in hand).
There is a chance PSG find themselves winning the league by the time we hit March. Such is the dominance, or the lack of level of play in France's Ligue 1.
Even then, struggling against a second-tier-bound Strasbourg should sound the alarms in the capital with a clash against second-place Lens on New Year and Bayern Munich lurking on the horizon.