Money v Money
A battle of the heavyweights ensued on Wednesday night as the oil rich clubs Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain took centre Stage. It was more a case of Abu Dhabi vs Qatar as these clubs are seen to be the richest in the world. But money aside we were hoping for a wonderful game of football and both sides delivered this in spades.
Surprisingly Paris came out the aggressors as they pressed the Manchester defence in the opening half. City where strangely subdued and rarely showed moments of calmness during the opening 45 minutes.
Press as a team
The midfield battle was being won by Paris trio Paredes, Gueye and Verratti. But the leading intensity was brought perhaps surprisingly by the attacking talents that are Di Maria, Mbappe and Neymar. Worryingly for City they looked vulnerable on the counter attack with Di Maria constantly escaping the shackles of Rodri.
The City defence finally succumbed to a goal that looked always on the cards. A corner whipped in to the near post was attacked by Marquinhos. The ball flew past Ederson who never stood a chance.
We are used to a season watching City take the leading games rarely have they fallen behind. This goal seemed to rock the City team to their very core. Despite having a large share of possession they rarely looked dangerous. Only on one occasion when the Paris defenders made a rare mistake Foden nearly stole a goal against the run of play.
A game of two halves
Half-time came and Pep Guardiola had the lion share of work to do between the two managers. His words seemed to work as immediately City went on the front foot for the all important away goal.
The rolls were now reversed as City’s belief grew. Where before they were unable to play out from tight positions they were now putting multiple passes together. As the half wore on Paris began to cut a frustrated figure as they were suffocated by their lack of possession.
On 64 minutes this tie was turned on its head. De Bruyne crossed into the box with the ball landing just behind the approaching attacker. Navas in goal hesitated as he was caught in two minds. This proved to be fatal as the ball crept into the far Corner.
Suddenly City went up a further gear and Paris were shell shocked. For the next 15 minutes they lived on scraps as they struggled to find a single pass to Mbappe. Foul after foul lead to a string of free kicks. City doubled their lead when Mahrez somehow found a gap in the wall.
Mentally Strong v Mentally Broken
Paris were now rocking in their foundations. Frustration translated into indiscipline. Idrissa Gueye suffered a moment of madness which lead to a horrible tackle on Gundogan. Paris were down to ten men.
Manchester City we’re now in their element. They swarmed all over a tired looking Paris team. Unlike Paris when they were in the ascendancy against Bayern in the quarter final. City smelled blood and went for the jugular.
Kaylor Navas in the Paris goal made amends for his earlier blunder with a string of fine saves denying a third for City. To their credit the home team managed to keep the deficit to a single goal.
Another leg to go
Looking towards the second leg now and it will be hard for Paris to overcome two away goals. Despite City being out of sorts for the first half of the game I cannot see them repeating this in the home leg. The difference in squad depth will also be a factor here as City could still introduce Sterling, Aguero and Jesus from their reserve. Paris will have to drop in standard with players like Ander Herrera covering for the suspended Gueye.
On nights like this in Europe particularly with two quality teams sometimes it is only a piece of luck that proves pivotal. With City being somewhat unlucky in previous seasons this was finally their time. The belief that they will have gotten from coming from a goal down will surely stand to them in the second leg.
For Paris this is a huge mountain to climb to get back into this tie. The most worrying part of their display was the overall lack of discipline from their team. With no leaders on the pitch to show the right way to play once they went a goal down. This takes courage and confidence of which the Paris team are lacking when it mattered most.
By no means is this contest over. While i would still back City to make their first final of the Champions League. Paris definitely have some big game players and if they are to progress they will need to give 100% for 90 minutes. That will be the biggest question mark over the tie to see if Paris are not mentally broken.