Football: Decisions for good of team, says PSG's Pochettino after Messi substitution

Lionel Messi was substituted in the 75th minute of Paris Saint-Germain's match against Lyon on Sept 19, 2021.
Lionel Messi was substituted in the 75th minute of Paris Saint-Germain's match against Lyon on Sept 19, 2021.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE) - Paris Saint-Germain coach Mauricio Pochettino has defended his decision to substitute forward Lionel Messi in Sunday's (Sept 19) 2-1 win over Lyon in the French Ligue 1 and said the Argentinian was "OK" with being taken off.

Messi, making his third appearance for PSG who also started with Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Angel di Maria, had a lively game and came close to scoring on his Parc des Princes debut when he hit the woodwork, but was substituted in the 75th minute with the score at 1-1.

Lucas Paqueta gave Lyon the lead in the 54th minute, before Neymar won and then converted from the spot midway through the second half of an absorbing contest.

With both teams in search of a winning goal, the 34-year-old Messi looked puzzled when he was replaced with fullback Achraf Hakimi and exchanged words with Pochettino as he walked off the pitch.

"We all know we have great players in this 35-man squad. Only 11 can play, we can't play more. The decisions in the game are made for the good of the team and each player," Pochettino said.

"Every coach thinks about that. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes players like it and sometimes they don't. At the end of the day, that's why we're here. These are decisions that have to be made by the coach.

"As for his reaction, I asked him how he was, he said he was OK. That was it. That was our exchange."

The move to take off the six-time Ballon d'Or winner proved to be less controversial after striker Mauro Icardi headed in Mbappe's cross from the left to score a stoppage-time winner as the Ligue 1 leaders maintained their perfect record with 18 points, five ahead of Marseille.

"We deserved our victory, even if it was in the last second," insisted Pochettino.

However, the fact this was a contest might surprise many who expect PSG to run away with the Ligue 1 title this season and perhaps even go all the way in the Champions League.

Nevertheless, they were disappointing in their 1-1 draw with Club Brugge in the Champions League last week in Messi's first start for the club and they were given a run for their money by Peter Bosz's Lyon.

"It was a cruel defeat," said Bosz, whose side are already 10 points behind the leaders in ninth place.

"We made a real match of it and showed we were not afraid of losing."