Reigning Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain won their first match of their Japan tour on Wednesday, seeing off reigning J.League 1 champions Kawasaki Frontale 2-1 at the National Stadium in Tokyo. The match saw Argentine superstar Lionel Messi facing-off against his Southeast Asian counterpart, Chanathip “Messi Jay” Songkrasin, in an encounter like no other.
Both Messi and Chanathip had faced-off against one another once nine years ago, when Barcelona thrashed the Thailand U-23 national team 7-1 at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok. And as fate would have it, the two players who share similar characteristics in their playing style would meet again years later, this time as Messi’s PSG kicked-off their tour of Japan with a friendly match against Chanathip’s Kawasaki.
PSG’s new manager Christophe Galtier deployed his strongest lineup, which included the terrifying attacking trio of Messi, Kylian Mbappe, and Neymar, as well as new signing Vitinha. Likewise, Toru Oniki at the Kawasaki dugout also brought out his strongest-possible side, which includes the likes of Chanathip, Leandro Damiao, Akihiro Ienaga, and Shintaro Kurumaya.
With Kawasaki supporters providing quite the atmosphere at the National Stadium, it was PSG who assumed control of the match from the get-go. Neymar proved himself to be a credible threat towards the Kawasaki backline, as his movement overwhelmed the Kawasaki defenders and his ball towards Achraf Hakimi in the 10th minute forcing a save from Jung Sung-ryong in the Kawasaki goal to deny the Moroccan.
Despite playing against a much more superior team, Kawasaki did not show any fear and they created some credible chances too. In the 18th minute, Marcinho managed to latch onto a Chanathip ball only for the Brazilian to fire his shot wide off Gianluigi Donnarumma’s goal.
PSG’s constant pressure on Kawasaki finally paid off in the 32nd minute, after some excellent teamwork between Mbappe and Hakimi led to the latter passing the ball towards Messi, who rifled home past a hapless Sung-ryong.
Akihiro Ienaga attempted to drew things level for Kawasaki in the 35th minute, only for his shot to be thwarted by Donnarumma as PSG managed to defend their slender lead into half-time.
Kawasaki immediately tried to pressure the PSG defense early into the second half, however substitute Arnaud Kalimuendo managed to double the Parisians’ lead in the 58th minute. Receiving a perfect ball from Juan Bernat, Arnaud managed to fire home past Sung-ryong to extend PSG’s advantage.
Kazuya Yamamura managed to pull one back for Kawasaki in the 84th minute, however that goal ended up as mere consolation as PSG ran out 2-1 winners at the end of the day.
Les Parisiens will continue their tour of Japan with a game against Urawa Red Diamonds at the Saitama Stadium 2002 on July 23rd, before they take on Gamba Osaka at the Panasonic Stadium Suita on July 25th.