Paris Saint-Germain

Mauricio Pochettino defends Lionel Messi substitution in Lyon victory

Tom Gott
Lionel Messi was substituted in PSG's win over Lyon
Lionel Messi was substituted in PSG's win over Lyon / Lionel Hahn/Getty Images

Paris Saint-Germain manager Mauricio Pochettino has backed his divisive decision to substitute Lionel Messi while his side were in search of a winner in Sunday's 2-1 victory over Lyon.

Messi, who is still waiting to score his first goal for PSG, was making his home debut but was hooked off after 76 minutes when the score was at 1-1 - and was visibly annoyed at the decision. After snubbing a handshake from Pochettino, he continued to cut a furious figure on the bench.

Another substitute, Mauro Icardi, popped up with a header deep in injury time to win the game for PSG, after which Pochettino insisted Messi's substitution was nothing to read into.

“I took the decision to take Leo off to protect him for possible injuries," Pochettino said (via the Mirror). "We have important games coming up and we want to protect him.

"These are decisions that we make for the good of the team. Everyone knows we have great players.

"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.

"Afterwards, Messi told me he was fine with the decision."

Messi lined up as PSG's attacking midfielder, with Neymar on the left, Angel Di Maria on the right and Kylian Mbappe, who was heavily booed by fans before kick-off, starting as the team's central striker.

Despite all that firepower, PSG made hard work of Sunday's game. They had a narrow edge on the stats sheet but struggled to find a way through and found themselves trailing to Lucas Paqueta's strike early in the second half.

A penalty from Neymar tied things up soon after, but Pochettino was still unhappy with the performance and Messi and Di Maria, the latter of whom was replaced by eventual match-winner Icardi with eight minutes to go.