Kylian Mbappe’s Paris Saint-Germain debut had a little bit of everything. A goal, an assist (sort of), a flashpoint moment, and a win that was never really in doubt.
The French giants went on the road and ran away from FC Metz 5-1 on Friday, with the hosts going down to 10 men after Benoit Assou-Ekotto received a straight red card early in the second half on a foul committed against Mbappe.
To be fair, the game was tied and Metz had given a good account of itself, at least up until the moment Assou-Ekotto whipped into Mbappe’s path with a forceful but arguably fair challenge. Judge for yourself:
In any event, Assou-Ekotto was sent off and Mbappe made the most of the contact.
He also made the most of his debut.
Mbappe made a $217 million move to PSG on deadline day in an ace fudging of Europe’s Financial Fair Play rules. Since the 18-year-old French prodigy is technically a loanee and not an outright signing, it will stretch the financial burden of signing both him and Brazilian megastar Neymar this summer over two seasons instead of one, which will help PSG duck underneath the penalties that would otherwise result from excess expenditures under the UEFA guidelines.
There were plenty of questions over where Mbappe would line up with PSG’s already stocked attacking contingent. Would he line up on one of the wings? Would he pair with incumbent striker Edinson Cavani up top?
Turns out, manager Unai Emery trotted Mbappe out in an expansive No. 10 role, ostensibly operating behind Cavani in a 4-2-3-1 but free to roam from side to side as he pleased.
And roam he did, and that helped lead to the first goal. After PSG turned Metz over near midfield, Neymar expertly touched Adrien Rabiot’s pass forward with his left foot before poking a sudden through-ball with his right foot, which Cavani finished with expert aplom:
A closer look reveals why Cavani was able to make his run. Because Mbappe had drawn in a defender from the left wing, and therefore right into Cavani’s line of sight, the Uruguayan knew for sure he was onside and pounced on Neymar’s pass.
In truth, Mbappe could have taken the chance himself, which is a byproduct of PSG’s excess of riches.
Yet Metz gave a game effort in the first half, and capitalized on some lax defending by Neymar and Cavani to score itself. Neither PSG star dispossessed Metz’s Mathieu Dossevi off a cleared corner, and Dossevi worked his way past PSG defender Thomas Meunier before playing a cross to Emmanuel Riviere, who headed home at the far post.
Emery appeared so perturbed by the equalizer, he waited nearly two minutes into the second half before returning to the PSG bench. Not long after, his side had a man advantage thanks to the red card.
Mbappe was the first to capitalize, opening his PSG account by playing a ball forward then striking the deflection first time into the lower right-hand corner of the net:
Neymar made it 3-1 about 10 minutes later, catching Metz flat-footed and finishing his decisive run with authority:
Cavani was teed up for the fourth goal thanks to a deflection off Mbappe’s elbow, which he knew nothing about yet still received an inexplicable assist credit for. Lucas Moura tacked on the fifth goal shortly before stoppage time, though the outcome had long since been decided.
PSG rested most of its back line on Friday, with most of its players coming off the international break and a trip to Celtic on the docket Tuesday to open the Champions League. It didn’t matter, as it likely won’t for most of the Ligue 1 season, since PSG is so much more talented than its domestic competition.
That was true even before Mbappe. His presence might put the club over the top in the Champions League. It certainly further rendered Ligue 1 a formality.
Joey Gulino is the editor of FC Yahoo and moonlights as a writer. Follow him on Twitter at @JGulinoYahoo.