NEW YORK — Paris Saint-Germain manager Carlo Ancelotti was clearly a happy man on Sunday night at Yankee Stadium.
His club's opening match in the 2012 Herbalife World Football Challenge against European champs Chelsea FC may have finished 1-1, but there was little doubt about the team that came away feeling like the winners.
"We played against a team that’s very strong, the first time for us against the best team in Europe," Ancelotti said in his post-game press conference. "I think our performance was good. We showed a good identity and we had a good control with possession of the match … We’re on the right track."
PSG's owners have made it loud and clear -- to the tune of several million dollars -- that they want to join European soccer's elite and make a serious run at the UEFA Champions League — beginning this year.
The performance against the defending UEFA Champions League winners at Yankee Stadium -- the first real test of PSG's European credentials -- served to inject a real sense of belief in the PSG ranks that the dream was within the realm of reality.
Goal: Nene gives PSG the lead
Even without their two most high-profile signings, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, PSG put forth a sparkling first half of soccer with several of the club's other show-stoppers on display.
Take your pick.
New arrival Ezequiel Lavezzi? "He is not in the best form but he’s very quick and very dangerous in the first half," Ancelotti said. "The performance was good."
How about Lavezzi's Argentine compatriot, Javier Pastore, who was the only player to go the full 90 minutes? "We’ll keep playing him in midfield," Ancelotti said, "because I think he improves the quality of the team’s play."
There was Nene, who scored the goal and was the guiding light for most of the opening 45 minutes. Forward Kevin Gameiro, amidst a cloud of transfer rumors, showed enterprise, hustle and quality on the ball.
What's scary is that the sublimely skillful Jeremy Menez was held out for precautionary reasons after logging just three days of practice. The manager says Menez will play against D.C. United on Saturday in the club's second and final WFC match.
"You have to be satisfied because this team improved really quickly," Ancelotti continued. "I think we are showing our identity of play and when the new players arrive I think we can increase the quality of play and I think we are not so far from our best.
"Our aim is to try to win, show good football and give a good image on the pitch," said the ex-Chelsea boss. "I don’t think that it will be easy, but we have the quality and the possibility to do this … We want to quickly go to the top of European football."
Sunday showed that Ancelotti and PSG may not be too far after all.