PARIS (AP) — Neymar scored an early penalty as a nervous Paris Saint-Germain scraped a 1-0 home win against a wasteful Leipzig in the Champions League on Tuesday.
PSG was beaten by Bayern Munich in last season’s final, but needed a win after losing two of its first three group games.
Although PSG moved above Leipzig and into second place in Group H — behind Manchester United — coach Thomas Tuchel’s side played poorly. PSG was fortunate to stumble upon a German side lacking a cutting edge, and so Neymar’s 11th-minute spot kick proved enough.
“We needed a win and now we have one. We played with a lot of heart, it was a very tough match. I knew it would be,” Tuchel said. “What I will take from this game is the heart we showed, the need to stick together because we’re in a difficult situation.”
Lackluster PSG’s relief at winning was as evident as it was exaggerated, with Neymar and the surprisingly ineffective Kylian Mbappe — both taken off late — aggressively leaping from the bench at the final whistle.
“This was a test for us, and a test we wanted to pass,” PSG captain Marquinhos said. “The team managed to pull together when things got tough.”
Neymar’s first Champions League goal this season came after Leipzig captain Marcel Sabitzer fouled forward Angel Di Maria breaking into the area.
Neymar took a trademark staggered runup and placed the ball just out of the reach of Hungary goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi’s left hand after he went the right way.
Tensions got to PSG at Parc des Princes. Di Maria appeared angry at being taken off by Tuchel midway through the second half; Neymar was shown a yellow card for hacking down Sabitzer; and substitute Marco Verratti seemed fortunate to escape a red for a lunging tackle on Christopher Nkunku that drew blood from the former PSG player’s knee.
While PSG constantly gave the ball away, sloppy Leipzig failed to take advantage of long phases of possession. The visitors were let down by rushed final passes, neat but too predictable sideways passing, and attacking players often easily knocked off the ball.
“I think we were the better team,” Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann said. “Paris didn’t really have any chances, they defended very deep and compact. They blocked one or two of our shots, our crosses weren’t really finding their target. We did enough to deserve at least a draw, now we need to win both games and hope Paris don’t win both of theirs.”
Leipzig did threaten from a corner moments after Neymar’s penalty when imposing center half Dayot Upamecano forced goalkeeper Keylor Navas into a tip-over save. Navas, a key player this season, then saved midfielder Amadou Haidara’s low shot in the 38th as Leipzig failed to punish a PSG side there for the taking.
Attacking midfielder Emil Forsberg volleyed just wide for Leipzig in the 49th, and center forward Yussuf Poulsen headed over in the 79th when he should have done better from an unmarked position.
PSG opened this campaign with a 2-1 home defeat to Manchester United and lost 2-1 three weeks ago in Leipzig.
In Tuesday’s other game, United beat Turkish side Istanbul Basaksehir 4-1 at home and leads with nine points, three ahead of PSG and Leipzig. PSG’s win, however, gave it a boost in terms of a better head-to-head record against Leipzig — courtesy of netting an away goal and not conceding one.
PSG plays United at Old Trafford on Dec. 2 before hosting Basaksehir six days later.
“Everything is still open,” Nkunku said. “We’ll give everything because we still have a chance.”
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