PARIS (AP) — Criticized for recent glaring errors at Paris Saint-Germain, Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma did not help his case with his awful tackle last weekend.
The reckless move gave younger rival Arnau Tenas the chance to show off his class. And the Spanish goalie seized the moment.
When Donnarumma was sent off after only nine minutes, Tenas came off the bench and made his debut in the French league. Seemingly immune to pressure, Tenas made seven decisive saves to deliver a clean sheet, and 10-man PSG won at Le Havre 2-0.
Tenas, who joined as a free agent over the summer from Barcelona, will have another chance to prove himself this weekend, this time in front of his home crowd when PSG hosts Nantes on Saturday. Following the red card he received at Le Havre, Donnarumma is suspended. Another backup, Keylor Navas, is out injured.
Ligue 1 front-runner PSG has a four-point lead over Nice, which plays Reims on Sunday. Third-placed Monaco travels to Rennes on Saturday.
Donnarumma was sent off when he came out of the area and tried to clear a long ball with a very high tackle. Instead, he made contact the face of Le Havre forward Josue Casimir.
Donnarumma's first red card since joining PSG in 2021 did not have much impact on PSG's result, again, but was another dent in his credibility.
He was at fault last month in a 1-1 draw against Newcastle in the Champions League. That night, he gifted Newcastle the opener when he only pushed a weak shot straight to Alexander Isak for an easy finish. A controversial penalty in the eighth minute of stoppage time ultimately salvaged a point for PSG but did not spare Donnarumma from criticism.
The error on Isak’s goal marked the second time in days that the Italian goalie was under scrutiny for a mistake after conceding a goal against Monaco in Ligue 1.
PSG coach Luis Enrique defended the 24-year-old Donnarumma after he was sent off, and instead blamed his team's defensive line and his own guidelines.
“I always ask the goalkeeper to cover the area, it was my mistake,” Enrique said. “The ball came an easy way to catch. The defenders were distracted, they could not catch it, and a forward attacked us. Gigio just did what I always ask him to do.”
Enrique has been closely following 22-year-old Tenas, who was the Spain goalkeeper when the team won the Under-19 European Championship in 2019. Last year, Tenas was called up to the senior Spain squad when Enrique was in charge.
Although he made a point of defending Donnarumma last weekend, Enrique was also full of praise for Tenas.
“He trains every day as if it was the last training of his life,” the coach said. “When you need him, you know he’ll be there.”
Despite Tenas' starring debut and Donnarumma's struggles, it's unlikely Enrique will bench Donnarumma for next week's decisive Champions League match against group leader Borussia Dortmund in Germany.
Gianluigi Buffon, a former Italy and PSG keeper, said Donnarumma was strong enough mentally to weather the criticism and bounce back.
“He’s got great armour when it comes to criticism and questioning himself,” Buffon said. “When you’re considered to be one of the three best goalkeepers in the world, it’s only natural that every mistake should give rise to this kind of controversy.”
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The Associated Press