Paris Saint-Germain kept their hopes of qualifying for the last 16 of the 2018/19 UEFA Champions League alive by beating Liverpool 2-1 at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday.
Les Parisiens took the lead through Juan Bernat after just 13 minutes, and Neymar made the points safe when he found the net eight minutes prior to the break.
A James Milner penalty deep into first-half stoppage time gave Liverpool hope, but last season's beaten finalists ultimately slipped to their third defeat in a row away from home in this season's competition.
PSG Front Three Far Superior to Liverpool Forward Line
Before the match, PSG goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon told David Maddock of the Daily Mirror Liverpool owned the best front three in Europe. Buffon probably knows better now, though, because the superior front three is closer to home for the 40-year-old stopper.
Buffon saw firsthand how PSG proved themselves a better attacking force than Liverpool thanks to a front three with greater pace, guile, experience and star power. The Reds' admittedly excellent trio of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah were easily overshadowed by Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe.
Neymar's movement posed questions Liverpool defenders struggled to answer.
Yet the gifted Brazil international's off-the-ball runs weren't the most perceptive of every player on the pitch.
Instead, Cavani led the Reds on a dance as he glided, rotated and spun in behind at will. The prolific No. 9 understandably drew a crowd wherever he went, with his runs opening space for Neymar and Mbappe to go through the middle.
Neymar's rapport with Mbappe was a joy to watch, as the two combined effortlessly with slick, one- and two-touch passing at pace:
It was fitting Neymar was the one to double PSG's lead on 37 minutes only after he reacted quickest to a rebound from Cavani's effort:
Liverpool's attack is still better than most, but it remains a pale shadow of a PSG strikeforce with a frightening 37 goals between them already this season.
Marco Verratti More Important for PSG UCL Hopes than Neymar
As good as Neymar is, it's not a stretch to say he isn't the most important player for PSG's bid to finally win the Champions League. At least not outright, not given the difference Marco Verratti makes to this team.
The Italy international midfield general bossed the game during the first half. He owned the ball by recycling possession with efficiency and intelligence.
Verratti's vision and creativity ensured Les Parisiens kept moving forward and exposed the gaps in the Liverpool team between the lines. Having a player conduct things with this kind of consummate ease made PSG look sophisticated and mature enough to claim this trophy.
PSG need only look at holders Real Madrid for proof of how valuable a consistent pass-master can be in this competition. While Los Blancos won the trophy in the last three seasons on the strength of Cristiano Ronaldo's goals, their true platform for success was a balanced midfield underpinned by Luka Modric and his astute radar.
Verratti doesn't have the same support Modric had, not with converted centre-back Marquinhos and roaming winger Angel Di Maria around him; however, there's no mistaking Verratti's influence whenever PSG string the passes together.
The one blot on his copybook comes from a struggle to keep his discipline, summed up by a reckless challenge on Liverpool defender Joe Gomez:
PSG need Verratti to keep his cool because this squad is a contender with its best playmaker available. Without him, Les Parisiens are destined to be also-rans in this tournament.
PSG travel to Bordeaux looking to maintain their lead atop of Ligue 1 of Sunday, and Liverpool host Everton on the same day in the first Merseyside derby of the Premier League season.