Neymar says ‘world-class’ return made difference in return match

Neymar made a spectacular return with a multi-goal performance.

PSG defeated Jeonbuk 3-0 in the third leg of the 2023 Coupang Play Series at the Busan Asiad Stadium on Wednesday. Neymar scored a hat-trick and Marco Asensio added a brace.

Neymar started the game for PSG. It was Neymar’s return from injury. Neymar’s season ended early after he suffered an ankle injury in February and focused on rehabilitation. He participated in preseason training but did not play. He also missed all three games of the team’s tour of Japan before arriving in Korea, but made his first appearance in almost six months against Jeonbuk.

PSG, who played a pre-season friendly against Inter Milan in Japan two days earlier, fielded a lineup that was largely composed of players who hadn’t started that game, with Neymar, Marco Verratti, Danilo Pereira, and Gianluigi Donnarumma among the first-teamers in each position.

Neymar set the tone for his younger teammates with sparkling individual performances. In the 10th minute, he delivered a roving pass to 2002-born forward Hugo Ekitiike to set up a shooting opportunity. In the 26th minute, he provided a key pass to Ismael Garvey (class of 2004) that led to a shot by his teammate.

After the midway point of the first half, he began to threaten the goal himself, and eventually found the back of the net. He opened the scoring in the 37th minute with a left-footed mid-range shot that rattled the net in the 39th minute. He drove the ball directly into the PSG penalty box. He evaded the Jeonbuk defense and took advantage of an opening to fire a shot. The shot hit Hong Jeong-ho, the goalie, and crossed the goal line.

The action continued in the second half. In the 11th minute, Neymar created a crucial chance with a one-touch through ball to the onrushing Garvey. In the 15th minute, he exchanged two-on-one passes with Ethan Mbappe inside the Jeonbuk penalty box. In the 39th minute, he added a second goal. He got behind the Jeonbuk defense, received a through ball from Fabian Luis, and calmly finished one-on-one with the goalkeeper.

Neymar also showed the kind of fan service that comes with being a star player. Every time Neymar appeared on the scoreboard, the crowd erupted in cheers. Neymar even went out of his way to direct the chants, clapping and responding to them as he prepared to take a corner kick. 꽁머니

It wasn’t expected that Neymar would get much playing time in his return from injury, but he did. He stayed on for the second half, and even stayed on when PSG made five substitutions at once in the 17th minute. He was still on the field when Lee Kang-In came on in the 24th minute and eventually played the full game.

The intensity of the game was not the same as an official match, but Neymar’s 90 minutes in his return to action boosted his chances of a healthy start to the season. PSG will host Lorient in the opening round of the 2023-2024 French Ligue 1 at the Parc des Princes at 4 p.m. on Sept. 13.

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