Thomas Meunier was an unlikely hero in Columbus Wednesday night.
In front of a crowd of 86,641 at Ohio Stadium (the largest to attend a soccer game in Ohio’s history), Meunier came off the bench and scored two first half goals. His tally helped lead Paris Saint-Germain to a 3-1 victory over defending European champions Real Madrid in the International Champions Cup.
Thomas Meunier Brace Keys 3-1 PSG Victory Over Real Madrid
The Parisians would open up the scoring in the 2nd minute. In a fantastic display of individual brilliance, academy product Jonathan Ikone dribbled past multiple Madrid defenders into the box. He then slotted the ball past goalkeeper Kiko Casilla to give PSG the early lead.
A few minutes later, PSG defender Thiago Silva was involved in a collision with Real forward Jese Rodriguez. The resulting injury forced Silva off the pitch in the tenth minute. It was then that Meunier, a recent summer signing for the club, checked into the game and made quite the impact in the attacking third of the field considering his position.
The former Club Brugge right back, who made three starts for Belgium at Euro 2016, doubled PSG’s lead in the 35th minute. Taking advantage of a poor Madrid clearance, Meunier collected the ball about five yards in front of the 18. He then blasted the ball past Casilla and into the upper left corner of the goal.
But Meunier wasn’t done. Five minutes later, he was the beneficiary of more defensive mistakes on the part of the 11-time European champions. He initially tried to square the ball to an onrushing Edinson Cavani who was making a far post run. But Madrid’s Raphael Varane got in front of the pass. Unfortunately for his team, the deflection went right to the feet of Meunier who slotted it into a virtually empty net.
Right before the stroke of halftime, the Galacticos would get one back via penalty kick. After PSG center back Serge Aurier handled the ball in the box, referee Hilario Grajeda made no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Brazilian fullback Marcelo lined up to take the kick. He made no mistake putting it over PSG goalie Kevin Trapp who, despite guessing correctly, wasn’t able to get a hand on it.
Real head coach Zinedine Zidane subbed out all 11 players heading out of the break, opting for a much younger squad. PSG would end up making a total of six subs in the second half. One of those was attacking midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa, who replaced Cavani. Ben Arfa was another high profile transfer window acquisition for the team, having signed from Nice on July 1st.
PSG head coach Unai Emery, himself a new arrival after leading Sevilla to the UEFA Europa League title in May, spoke highly of Meunier after the game. But despite his two-goal outburst, it’s uncertain whether Emery will immediately slot him into the starting lineup. Nevertheless, there should be some healthy competition at the position between him and Aurier.
“First of all, (Meunier) had a great match,” Emery told reporters post game. “And with Serge, we’re trying to create some competition. That’s what we want. That’s the mentality we want. It’s a winning mentality when players are competing.”
For Zidane, Wednesday’s loss was disappointing but it was one of many opportunities the club will have in preparing for the coming season. Ultimately, it’s all part of the process in being ready for La Liga, Champions’ League and Copa Del Rey play.
“We never want to lose this way,” Zidane noted. “Obviously, we all need to give our best, being Madrid, to give everything we can. But we realize this is preparation. This is our chance to gain rhythm, it’s what the preseason is about.”
The result marks PSG’s second win of the International Champions’ Cup. This after defeating Inter Milan by a similar 3-1 scoreline at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, OR on Sunday. Their next match in the exhibition tournament takes place at StubHub Center in Carson, CA on July 30th (8:30 PM PDT). It’s there where they will face defending English Premier League champions Leicester City.
In Madrid’s case, they also return to action on Saturday against English competition. The Galacticos head north to Ann Arbor, MI and face Premier League giants Chelsea at 3 PM EDT. It will be head coach Antonio Conte‘s second match in charge of the Blues after their 1-0 win over Liverpool Wednesday night at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA.