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.