News : Champions League: Manchester City beats Paris Saint-Germain: direct hit through the eye of the needle
The scene of the game: Half a dozen Parisians had made it their business to prevent the imminent impact. Five of them lined up against the wall, Marco Verratti lay down on the grass behind his teammates in order to block even the most shrewd free-kicks. But City attacker Riyad Mahrez didn’t need any frills to sink the ball into the goal from a good 20 meters – he just needed the luck that Presnel Kimpembe and Leandro Paredes turned when jumping up so that a ball-sized gap was cleared. Mahrez brought the ball through the eye of the needle, Keylor Navas in the PSG goal realized too late what had happened. And Manchester City was ahead after 71 minutes of play in the Prinzenpark in Paris.
The result: It stayed that way until the end. The 2: 1 (0: 1) away win at Paris Saint-Germain gives the Citizens an excellent starting position to reach the Champions League final for the first time in club history. Click here for the match report.
The coach duel: The last time Mauricio Pochettino and Pep Guardiola’s teams met in the Champions League, the Argentine had the better end for himself: Even as a Tottenham Hotspur coach, Pochettino threw the Citizens and their starting coach out of the competition in spring 2019. Guardiola in a way still had an account to be taken, even if there were no declarations of war before the game, but mutual appreciation was expressed.
The first half: One thing was evident right from the start: Guardiola, who had failed again and again due to his own tactical brooding since his last Champions League title with Barcelona in 2011, let the experiments remain. Lots of ball possession, flexible positional play in 4-3-3 without real tip – City showed classic Guardiola football. Only: There was no goal danger. It had Paris, who conquered balls, sought direct duels via Ángel di María, Neymar and Kylian Mbappé and took the lead after a corner with a Marquinhos header (15th minute). It took almost until the half-time whistle before City got a big chance after winning the ball – which the young Phil Foden then knocked centrally on Keylor Navas (42nd).
The knockout expert: PSG captain Marquinhos is not a goalscorer. He doesn’t have to be either, the Brazilian mostly plays in central defense. When Marquinhos scores, however, it is often important: He was successful in the quarter-finals and semi-finals of the preseason, and this season too, Marquinhos scored an important goal against FC Bayern.
The second half: After the break, City sat even deeper in the opposing half. The Parisians failed to drive the relief attacks, which had regularly succeeded in the first half. However, the leadership did not seem to be in real danger because, despite all the joy of playing, City could hardly get into good final positions. The equalizer actually fell after a half-field cross from De Bruynes (64.), Navas in goal seemed to pay more attention to John Stones at the far post than to the cross itself. The failed attempt to build the wall and a dismissal followed to a long successful Paris evening to make a fiasco.
The color theory of the game: Referee Felix Brych’s decision could not be called controversial: The fact that PSG clearer Idrissa Gueye’s kick against Ilkay Gündogan was red resulted in no discussion (77th). An attack from behind in the direction of the Achilles tendon, with minimal chance of the ball – this is what a dismissal looks like. In the eyes of the PSG players, however, an almost identical scene occurred in the final phase: Another kick, this time by Kevin De Bruyne on the foot of Danilo Pereira. Its action, however, happened from the front, seemed a bit less dangerous – and Brych was only worth the color yellow.
The forbidden zone: The first leg between PSG and City was high-class, intense, dramatic – but it hardly took place in the penalty areas of either team. The English scored both goals from a distance, the French scored from a corner. Both coaches left their center strikers – Moise Kean and Mauro Icardi on the Parisian side, Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Agüero at City – on the bench for over 90 minutes. In the second leg on Tuesday (9 p.m. live ticker: spiegel.de; TV / Stream: Sky / DAZN) it could be necessary, at least for the Parisians, to come up with a different tactical concept. Because against the best defense of the Premier League, even exceptional talent like Mbappé and Neymar have a hard time.