Messi makes Ligue 1 debut as Mbappe shines for PSG

Argentine comes on in 66th minute, replacing disappointing Neymar

Paris Saint-Germain's French forward Kylian Mbappe talks to Paris Saint-Germain's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi at the end of the French L1 football match between Stade de Reims and Paris Saint-Germain at Auguste Delaune Stadium in Reims on August 29, 2021. AFP
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Lionel Messi made his much-anticipated Ligue 1 debut for Paris Saint-Germain on Sunday, but it was Kylian Mbappe who shone as the club maintained their perfect start to the season with a 2-0 victory at Stade de Reims.

Mbappe gave PSG a taste of what they would be missing if he left for Real Madrid, who have made bids to recruit the France striker since Messi joined on a two-year deal from Barcelona.

The win over Reims means PSG top the table with a maximum 12 points.

All 20,545 tickets were sold at the Auguste Delaune stadium to watch Messi, 34.

And the fans, who chanted the Argentina forward's name, were rewarded in the 66th minute when he replaced the disappointing Neymar.

Mbappe, 22, did not disappoint in a brilliant performance, seemingly unfazed by the transfer frenzy surrounding him.

Two days before the end of the window, he made the difference with his speed and sense of timing, opening the scoring with a header and rounding off with a clinical finish.

After a stuttering start, PSG got into their groove and Mbappe put them in front after 15 minutes by heading home from Angel Di Maria's cross.

But PSG became too comfortable and Reims started to apply some pressure, with Moreto Cassama's superb strike hitting Keylor Navas's crossbar three minutes before the break.

Reims celebrated what they thought was a Marshall Munetsi equaliser five minutes into the second half, only for the Zimbabwean's effort to be ruled out for offside.

Messi started to warm up after 57 minutes, drawing applause from the Reims supporters, who he saluted.

They sang his name just when he was about to come on, shortly after Mbappe had doubled PSG's advantage from Achraf Hakimi's cross at the end of a sharp counter-attack.

Mbappe combined with Messi, but the former Barcelona striker was not in the same condition as the Frenchman, having not played a competitive game since winning the Copa America with Argentina on July 10.

"It was important that he started with a win," PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino said afterwards. "He brings serenity to the team. His energy and his optimism trickle down on the rest of the team."

Reims defender Andrew Gravillon crossed Messi's path before and after the game.

"He's impressive. Last year we were watching him play the Champions League, now it's a pleasure to have him in our league and it's also a pleasure to challenge him," Gravillon said.

"I went to see him to get his shirt for my little brother but he didn't give it to me. Maybe next time I'll get lucky."

Updated: August 29, 2021, 11:42 PM