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

<span>Photograph: Marc Atkins/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Newcastle have waited 20 years to play again in the Champions League group stage and no part of any of their players was ready to bow out after five ties. After a night of high stress and drama, they live to fight another day in the Group of Death.

It should have been more. They were within minutes of a glorious victory that would have given them control of their last‑16 destiny before the final tie at home against Milan.

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It was a night when cool heads and lion hearts were required and Eddie Howe had them in abundance. His answer to the selection crisis that had deprived him of 10 senior players? Simply to push his 11 starters through the entire game. There were times, as Paris Saint-Germain laid siege to their goal in the second half, when Newcastle looked ready to drop. They did not. The collective effort was herculean.

Newcastle had been excellent in the first half as a footballing force, weathering an early PSG storm to strut their stuff, Alexander Isak scoring for them after a Gianluigi Donnarumma handling error. And then it was backs to the wall.

PSG did everything in their attempts to score after the interval and, as the drums beat louder in the end housing their Ultras, it felt as though the equaliser was inevitable. Newcastle resisted. But just when they began to dream of needing a win against Milan to guarantee their place in the knockout rounds, they suffered a brutally low blow.

PSG had been howling with increasing desperation for a penalty, some of their players being booked for taking the protests too far, the home crowd approaching meltdown. They howled some more deep into stoppage-time when Ousmane Dembélé crossed and the ball hit Tino Livramento in the side and ricocheted into the back of his arm, which was ever so slightly outstretched.

Surely not? But the VAR said penalty and the referee, Szymon Marciniak, agreed. Up stepped Kylian Mbappé to plunge in the knife, beating Nick Pope – who had previously looked unbeatable – and, in the process, revive PSG’s hopes of progress. On the balance of play and the chances they created, they did deserve something. Just not like this.

Newcastle know they must beat Milan. They probably knew that anyway. But now they will need a favour from Borussia Dortmund – in other words for them not to lose at home against PSG. Newcastle’s progress remains possible and it looked positively on during the first half. PSG had started with intensity and they went close through Lee Kang‑in, Fabián Ruiz and Mbappé, Pope saving with his legs to deny the latter’s back‑heeled flick.

But it did not take long for Howe’s team to dig out a foothold, to show their composure on the ball, a desire to make their punches count. They would have given anything to be on this stage last season, during the long slog for a Premier League top‑four finish. They were in no mood to die wondering.

Isak had blown a gilt-edged chance on 12 minutes, which was the moment when the tide started to turn. It was Miguel Almirón who set him up, robbing Achraf Hakimi to cross low. Isak was there only to lift a first-time shot high. He would not be so profligate the next time.

Alexander Isak celebrates firing Newcastle into the lead against PSG
Alexander Isak celebrates firing Newcastle into the lead against PSG. Photograph: Stéphane Mahé/Reuters

The buildup was all about the drive and confidence of Livramento, the left-back getting away from three would-be challengers on the left‑hand edge of the PSG area and just keeping on going, treading the line, more PSG players unable to lay a glove on him. He found Almirón, who cut back and shot and that was when Donnarumma endured his horror moment, allowing the ball to squirm from his grasp. Isak gobbled up the rebound.

Dembélé worked Pope on 32 minutes with a scuffed effort that was dribbling towards the corner and he banged a stoppage-time effort at Fabian Schär from Mbappé’s cross but the remainder of the first half was most notable for the way Newcastle enjoyed themselves.

They thrust out their chests and pinged their one-touch passes; PSG came to look worried and very much mortal. Isn’t Livramento supposed to be a right‑back? And, yes, that really was the 17-year-old Lewis Miley looking as though he belonged at right midfield – close to Mbappé’s orbit. It could even have been 2-0 when Isak almost got away from Milan Skriniar, who was the last man. Skriniar appeared to handle as he fell on the ball in the act of protecting it.

Howe’s XI was pretty much the only one he could have picked, such was the depth of his selection crisis. And the worry concerned what he had on the bench, or rather what he did not have; his capacity to change the game. Managers are permitted to name 11 substitutes in this competition; Howe had seven. Two of them were goalkeepers, three more barely used teenagers from the academy.

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Luis Enrique changed his strategy in the second half. PSG were less furious, more controlled. The idea was to pass Newcastle to death, to make them run. They probed. Pope denied Dembélé, with Mbappé fluffing the rebound and, although Anthony Gordon had a couple of flickers on the counter, it became all PSG.

The substitute Bradley Barcola had to score from an Mbappé cutback only for Pope to block – again. Barcola dragged another chance wide and then the penalty shouts started. First it was a Gordon challenge on Hakimi, which was checked by the VAR, who said no. And then a handball shout against Miley; play did not stop for a VAR check.

PSG surged on. Dembele shot wide; Mbappé was denied by Pope and then lashed the rebound wide; Barcola lifted yet another chance high. At the bitter end, they finally caught a break.