Lewis Miley’s talent shines through for Newcastle in PSG power struggle

<span>Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA</span>
Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA

Power finds a way. Albeit for Paris Saint-Germain, the road to redemption here would consist of a scandalous late penalty, a midfield made of sugar syrup and some of the worst distance shooting seen this side of a Soccer AM Crossbar Challenge. At full time the Parc des Princes roared with relief, heaved and exhaled, not with conviction but with the begrudging acceptance of something stolen, not earned.

And this really was tough on Newcastle, who were 97 minutes in to perhaps their greatest away win in Europe. Annihilated by injuries and with about three grown adults on their bench, they weathered everything the world’s richest club and the world’s greatest forward could throw at them: a home crowd, chances saved and blocked and thwarted, the sort of pressure that makes the Montpelliers and Lyons of this world crumble on a weekly basis.

Related: Mbappé and VAR hurt Newcastle as stoppage-time penalty saves PSG

But once the mist clears and the righteous rage dissipates, perhaps a curious kind of clarity will emerge. For ultimately this was a game that deserved better than to be remembered for Kylian Mbappé and a dodgy refereeing call. It was a night of pure Magpie masochism, a night when Eddie Howe’s team went nose-to-nose against one of the continent’s giants, a night when a 17-year-old from County Durham made his name on the game’s biggest stage.

Lewis Miley wants the football. He craves it as only a kid can crave it. There is a restlessness and a tension to him that is most visible when the ball is somewhere else. He twitches and twists: four steps this way, three steps that way, a shuffle, a hop, a little sprint into space. Those who watched him play for the under-21s last season noted that he often looked out of sync with his teammates, for the simple reason that he was just so much better than them, making the kind of runs they would never find, anticipating danger that would never materialise.

Well, here was the danger. It came primarily from Mbappé on the Paris left, and with Miley stationed on the right of a midfield three his job was one of deterrence as much as threat. There were the three crucial blocks: one from Fabián Ruiz on his own penalty spot, one from Lee Kang-in when he decided not to challenge for the loose ball and instead decided to close down the angle, one in the second half from Bradley Barcola that earned him a meaty slap on the shoulder from Kieran Trippier.

Kylian Mbappé scores PSG's late equaliser
Kylian Mbappé scores his penalty to steal a point for PSG. Photograph: Mohammed Badra/EPA

And there was something strangely stirring about the way Miley and Trippier, Newcastle’s youngest and oldest players respectively, already seem to have found a common wavelength. Trippier was of course excellent, winning the ball from Mbappé early on with the sort of perfectly clean tackle you only really see in sportswear adverts. But even when Mbappé got away from him Miley was there, like the Bond girl smashing the bad guy in the face with her handbag when all hope appears lost. Mbappé moved into the centre not long after that.

Yet even amid the defensive rearguard, we also caught a glimpse of Miley’s gift going forward. Newcastle’s goal was a wonderful ensemble piece: 41 seconds and 10 passes in which Paris couldn’t get a foot on the ball and every Newcastle outfield player bar Fabian Schär did. Everyone here did what they do best: Bruno Guimarães squirming out of trouble, Miguel Almirón shuffling and scuttling like a player being operated by a child mashing the buttons on an Xbox, Tino Livramento striding boldly into the penalty area like a full‑back who really doesn’t want to be a full-back.

Miley, meanwhile, was the key to the whole move: drifting wide to overload Lucas Hernandez, and then making the overlapping run that allowed Almirón to advance 25 yards up the pitch. Both in attack and defence, there is an instinctive intelligence at work here: a player who simply intuits where the ball is going to be in three seconds, just as Jude Bellingham did at a similar age. Is he a No 6, a No 8, a No 10? Nobody really knows yet. But he’ll be playing for England within three years.

And of course the irony is that Miley would probably not have been playing at all had it not been for Newcastle’s acute injury crisis. On a night when Paris fielded an all‑Parisian front three, it was a reminder, perhaps, that even in the state-fuelled vanity project there is room for the green shoots of joy, for a local hero, for something organic and real. Perhaps in the end, power always finds a way. But – and this is the hope that must sustain football even in its dystopian dog days – so too does talent.