Match Coverage

PSG 2-2 City: match report

There’s an accepted social belief that men can’t multitask. A comparison of our Premier League and Champions League campaigns this term would confirm that assumption to be true: we’ve been swallowed up like specks of plankton in domestic waters, but continue to hunt like Great Whites in ones closer to the continent. And in the stadium that Ligue 1 champions PSG have constructed into a Colisée this season – the Parc des Princes where the assists of Ángel Di María and goals of Zlatan Ibrahimovic have earned Laurent Blanc’s side a *huge* 75% win percentage – our boys sunk their teeth into the juiciest piece of flesh they’ve encountered in the competition last night. The wounds were deep.

By no means does the 2-2 draw in Paris on Wednesday night confirm our place in the semi-finals. But with two away goals to our name, dare I say it, we should feeling pretty bon about progressing.

I happen to be part of direct message group for a popular French football website on Twitter. Before the game, the boys on there were having it large about how ‘history would be made’ in the Parc des Princes and how it was going to be ‘a fantastic night for PSG.’ I told myself that it wouldn’t be the best idea to become embroiled in such a discussion, but I agreed with them. The win at Bournemouth on Saturday was encouraging but we were about to face perhaps the third best team in Europe. This was supposed to be a night to remember for these Frenchmen, and one to forget for ourselves.

But for all their Swedish overlords, ratty Argentinian wingers and Ligue 1 titles, PSG still have David Luiz playing in the centre of their defence; a mishmash of limbs and hair that PSG paid £50m for. Manuel Pellegrini lined-up with his very own hideously overpriced defender in Eliaquim Mangala, but the Parisian put on a display far superior to the one offered by Luiz on his return to his homeland. The two most expensive defenders on the planet took centre stage in the opening minutes of this quarter final clash.

Two minutes in and the former Chelsea defender found himself lining-up in a wall with a yellow card to his name after bringing Sergio Agüero down just outside the box. Danger averted, it was Mangala’s turn to terrify his supporters as he looked to have up-ended Blaise Matuidi in the penalty area. Referee Milorad Mažic didn’t think so, and on went a blistering first half brimming with defensive and refereeing gaffes.

We’d started brilliantly – De Bruyne firing a warning shot over the bar and Navas using his pace to get in behind Maxwell on a few occasions – until the hosts were awarded a penalty. Making up for his previous mistake it was Luiz who won it for them, diving over the outstretched leg of Bacary Sagna and announcing the second mini-battle of the night: Joe Hart vs Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swede had managed to put a 30-yard overhead kick and three other smart goals past Hart back in 2012 when England were defeated in Stockholm but could not convert from 12 yards. Diving down to his right and keeping the ball out with a strong hand, Hart, on his return to first team action after a two week lay off, had his revenge.

Fine chances for both teams followed. Navas whipped a perfect ball into Silva who nodded wide and Ibrahimovic skewed a second opportunity to put his side ahead. The 34-year-old’s miss featured in the latest episode of ‘Nico, what the f*** are you doing?’ The Argentinian had raced up the pitch only to be dispossessed by Matuidi and will have been relieved to watch Ibrahimovic fire over the bar.

Possession belonged to PSG but we clung on. Gritty performances like this always seem to involve Fernandinho and the Brazilian was exceptional on the night. We’ve been criticised for the slow speed at which our midfield feeds the ball into our attackers, but I thought Ferna did an excellent job of accelerating the process in Paris. With the first half drawing to close, Ferna turned the propellers on and fed the ball into De Bruyne who pile-drived past Trapp. This was really happening.

Aaaand it’s gone. We were woken immediately from our reverie when Fernando, obviously feeling sorry for the big man, dawdled on an innocuous pass from Hart and allowed Ibrahimovic to pass into an empty net. This was an unfortunate, yet absolutely dire, mistake from the player who has done an admirable job of scrubbing up his reputation this season. For me, he’s been a key player in the last few games and deserves credit for maintaining his composure in the second half to disrupt the home side’s rhythm. Things like this don’t usually happen in the quarter finals of the world’s most reputable football competition, but City are here now.

Possession again belonged to the hosts in the second half without troubling us. That was until a Di María corner found the noggin of Cavani who forced Hart into a save. Waiting at the back post, however, was former City academy player Adrien Rabiot who tapped in from close range. Moments later, Ibrahimovic saw his header crash against the bar and things were beginning to look a little bleak. We hadn’t been able to get our foot on the ball in the second half and possibly could have benefited from an extra midfielder to help us control the PSG stampede. But credit to Pellegrini, he stuck to his guns, kept the attackers on the field and with 19 minutes remaining, we were thanking him for doing so.

Silva, De Bruyne and Navas were instrumental in the build up to the equaliser. Pressing Serge Aurier into a mistake in the centre of midfield, Silva fed the ball into De Bruyne who spotted Navas on the right flank. Overlapping the Spaniard was Sagna who collected the ball from the winger and whipped a teasing cross into the box that neither Aurier nor Thiago Silva could deal with. Anticipating the mistake was Fernandinho who put us level and buried Aurier’s already shocking relationship with his teammates even further into the ground.

There’s a feeling that those two crucial away goals will represent our biggest weapons in the second leg on April 12th. While PSG have proven that clinching the league title may have a detrimental effect on a team’s mentality when approaching important European games late into the campaign, our lads have proven that they are taking the Champions League very seriously this year.

Laurent Blanc confirmed after the game that Marco Verratti, Blaise Matuidi, Javier Pastore and David Luiz will all miss the second leg at the Etihad next Tuesday, whilst Yaya and Vinny are both rumoured to have good chances of being fit. It’s possible that the only thing standing in the way of our supporters watching the boys march into the semi-finals next week are those excessively priced tickets. However, the fickle nature of the football fan is such that that widespread anger with the ticket prices quickly disappeared into thin air last night, as a mad scramble to get those Champions League quarter-final tickets ensued, now seemingly priceless. But, to end on a good note, Wolfsburg made huge strides towards a semi-final place with a surprise 2-0 win over Real Madrid last night – if the stars align in our favour, we’ll eliminate PSG next week and meet the Germans in the next round where KDB will (hopefully) remind them of what a brilliant footballer he is.

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