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Pochettino defends controversial Messi substitution against Lyon

23:36 BST 19/09/2021
Lionel Messi Mauricio Pochettino PSG 19092021
The Argentine superstar looked far from happy when he was brought off the pitch with 15 minutes still to play

Mauricio Pochettino has defended himself after raising eyebrows when he chose to substitute Lionel Messi during his side’s clash with Lyon on Sunday, with the Paris Saint-Germain boss saying "managers are there to make decisions".

Messi, who was making his home debut, looked frustrated when he was hauled off after 75 minutes having failed to score. He appeared to say something to Pochettino as he made his way to the bench.

The game was level at 1-1 at that stage, but Mauro Icardi popped up with a last-minute winner to earn PSG all three points.

What did Pochettino say about Messi?

Despite the dramatic nature of the victory, a lot of the focus after the game fell on Pochettino’s decision to take off Messi when his side still needed a goal to win the game.

The 34-year-old has yet to score for his new club, though he went close in the first half when his 25-yard free kick smacked the angle of post and bar with the goalkeeper beaten.

Asked why he decided to substitute his compatriot, Pochettino said: "Everyone knows we have great players on the team.

"We have a very rich squad of 35 players. Then we have to make choices.  With the 11 who must start. And then we have to make decisions during the game.

“Sometimes these choices pay off and sometimes they don't. But that's why we're standing in front of the bench thinking about what to do. And those decisions that you have to make, whether things go well or not. Whether you like it or not."

Poch praises PSG character

Pochettino’s decision to take off Messi would likely have faced more scrutiny had PSG failed to win, but deep into stoppage time Kylian Mbappe chipped an inviting cross that was headed home by Icardi.

PSG had earlier fallen behind at the start of the second half when Lucas Paqueta converted Karl Toko Ekambi's centring pass, but Neymar won a controversial penalty which he converted himself to haul them level.

The win ensures PSG maintain their 100 per cent start to the Ligue 1 campaign and moves them five points clear of Marseille at the top of the table.

It was also the perfect response to a frustrating draw against Club Brugge in their Champions League group stage opener.

“It's very positive for us," added Pochettino. "After our difficult game against Brugge, winning again was important.

"Lyon are a great team, with great players and they played well in the first half. After the goal we conceded, we had to show some character.

"We have to find the balance to provide strength to the team. We continue to work on it.

"We play every three days, we can't train a lot. And in this case, we have to look at a lot of videos to make adjustments. In particular, we must work to reduce the spaces between the lines. "

Next up for Pochettino, Messi and PSG is a Ligue 1 trip to Metz on Wednesday.

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