Vitinha scores Marseille's winner against Reims; PSG faces Lorient without Mbappe and Neymar
PARIS (AP) — Star striker Kylian Mbappe watched from the stands as Paris Saint-Germain began its title defense with a drab 0-0 home draw against Lorient in the French league on Saturday.
Mbappe, Neymar and Marco Verratti were all left out by new PSG coach Luis Enrique at Parc des Princes.
Mbappe topped last season’s scoring charts with 29 league goals, but was not on the field against Lorient because he is mired in a contract standoff. He wants to play this season and leave for free when his contract runs out, but PSG wants to sell him to stop this happening.
Looking pensive, Mbappe sat alongside his younger brother Ethan as PSG struggled to break down a well-organized Lorient, which hit the post from midfielder Laurent Abergel's shot in the 43rd and went close near the end through midfielder Romain Faivre.
Central defender Milan Skriniar, attacking midfielder Marco Asensio, and forward Goncalo Ramos all had their PSG debuts but made little difference.
Neymar trained alone on Friday, with the club saying it was because he was recovering from a viral infection. But Neymar could leave PSG this summer. Verratti and Neymar have been linked with a move to the lucrative Saudi Arabian league.
Earlier, Portugal forward Vitinha scored a second-half winner as Marseille opened its campaign with a 2-1 home win against Reims.
Marseille's new coach Marcelino kept veteran striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the bench with Marseille facing Panathinaikos in the return leg of a Champions League qualifier next Tuesday. Marseille, which finished third in the French league last season, trails 1-0.
Marseille struggled at home last season and the match started badly at Stade Velodrome when Japan forward Junya Ito put Reims ahead in the 10th minute.
After midfielder Azzedine Ounahi equalized for Marseille midway through the first half, Ito and Vitinha both had a goal disallowed in quick succession.
But club-record signing Vitinha did celebrate in the 73rd when he ran onto a cross from winger Ismaïla Sarr and clipped the ball over goalkeeper Yehvann Diouf.
SAINT-ETIENNE FANS BRAWL
Saint-Etienne's match at Rodez in the second tier was delayed for one hour after dozens of Saint-Etienne fans appeared to brawl among themselves. Television images showed two rival Ultras groups fighting in the away section.
Saint-Etienne is one of France's most storied clubs and has won 10 league titles, one less than record-holder PSG. But Les Verts were relegated at the end of the 2021-22 season.
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