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Gueye gives PSG the lead with a blistering finish
Sterling and Bernardo hit the bar
Messi scores first PSG goal with sensational one-two and finish
For even the finest defences there are still very few workable solutions to the age-old problem of Lionel Messi running into space with the ball at his feet, and as Manchester City discovered anew on this Champions League night, knowing the likely outcome is no guarantee it can be prevented.
So it was the case with little more than 15 minutes left at Parc des Princes, with Messi and his team-mates at Paris Saint-Germain having hitherto been mostly controlled on their own patch by perhaps the most sophisticated blend of footballers in Europe.
The antidote for PSG was not to press and chase and break Manchester City down at Pep Guardiola’s own game. The antidote was to hang on for dear life and mutter a prayer for an intervention from Messi. Or failing that one of the two elite attacking showpieces alongside him, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar.
In the end, Messi did what he was so often obliged to do over the declining years of his former Barcelona team, that being compensate for the imbalance with a moment so perfect that even an opponent that had prepared for every eventuality had to write it off as unavoidable.
The second PSG goal of the game, to go with the first plundered by Idrissa Gueye in the early stages, was Messi’s first for his new club, and a classic of his repertoire. Perhaps in the old days he would have carried the ball alone on his left foot cutting in from the right but this time he briefly loaned it to Mbappe, a player of giant status himself but aware that he was to be but a bit-part in this moment. When it came back to Messi it was dispatched with not a moment of doubt on one of those unreadable flights past Ederson from just outside the box. The stadium erupted: it was the end of the contest, and everyone knew it.
City had been the better side – a much more cohesive style but always hostage to the breakaway of the lavish talents at the other end of the pitch. That did not, to the credit of Guardiola’s side, diminish the risks they took or the high line they played. PSG have three outrageously talented elite-level goal machines. City have none.
It will not matter against many of the opposition they face this season, but on nights like these, when they had a European club record 18 attempts on goal, it is impossible to ignore. These are the peak years of the PSG superstar enclave where, even at home in the group stages of the Champions League, against one of Europe’s best sides they can field Messi, Neymar and Mbappe and still settle for being a counter-attacking team. Mauricio Pochettino might not ordinarily have signed up to having three greatest players in the world freestyling their way through it but that is what he has to work with.
At least he can say PSG’s defensive work bore the hallmarks of their fastidious manager. That was where PSG excelled, in keeping out this unrelenting City attack. The reality for PSG is that their famous three operate as a loose confederation of attacking gunpowder while their seven fellow outfield colleagues do everything else. Pochettino’s back four, with the captain Marquinhos at the heart of it, held the line long enough for the damage to be inflicted by Messi at the other end.
Not just Marquinhos and his central defensive partner Presnel Kimpembe but also goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, and Marco Verratti in midfield who departed to a rapturous ovation after the Messi goal. The performance was built on the opening goal that PSG scored with their first meaningful attack of the match – and perhaps their only really decent breakthrough of the first half. It was enough to give them a platform to build on as Guardiola’s players ran large periods of play with a sense of propriety over the game that must have been bruising at times for Pochettino.
City were excellent in the first half, and they came as close as could be expected to a goal when Raheem Sterling and then Bernardo Silva hit the bar within seconds of one another on 26 minutes. Donnarumma did not get one of those giant hands to the initial header or, indeed, the second chance that looked like a formality. City should have scored.
The screw was being turned on PSG and, as with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, the pressure was intense. Bernardo and Rodri held the centre of midfield, working configurations with Kevin De Bruyne and for the large part occupying the space that Messi wanted when he came off the wing. PSG’s big three are reluctant to work backwards, with Neymar the occasional exception.
The avoidance of tracking back seems to be a matter of honour for all three of them. In that respect each behaves as if the other two were not working under the same privilege, which at times felt like a burden that PSG might not be able to bear on this night. After an early onslaught, the home side had arguably their best period, which was the time they scored. They dragged City out of shape momentarily for Achraf Hakimi to release Mbappe down the inside right channel.
Twice City had chances to get the ball clear, and even got a boot on it, but having eluded Neymar it fell to Gueye for his first Champions League goal for PSG. City struck the bar twice in that one attack created by De Bruyne’s fine cross and then before half-time the midfielder was lucky not to be dismissed for a bad foul on Gueye. After the break City’s commitment to the attack started to leave spaces, one of which Messi ran into for his goal.
Neymar might have had one himself as the game broke down but became strangely absorbed by a running feud with Aymeric Laporte. Beaten in both legs of the semi-final by City last season, PSG were not prepared to let this game slip away. Two goals behind there was not much left for Guardiola to do. He does not have a striker with a track record for late goals to send on in these moments, although his faith in Gabriel Jesus remains unshakable.
Without signing Messi himself, City would never have had a player capable of doing the things he does, but the feeling remains that they are still missing someone to score the goals their performances should yield.
PSG vs Man City, as it happened
Sam Wallace's match report is imminent
And will appear in this space. But meanwhile ... Lionel Messi:
Full time PSG 2 Man City 0
A statement of intent from PSG who have demonstrated they have upgraded significantly in goal and, obviously, with Lionel Messi. But they also showed that Pochettino, with his selection and tactics, set up PSG perfectly for City's multi-talented and multi-pronged attack. Herrera, Verratti and Gueye were excellent.
No shame and no need to worry for City who should have scored when Bernardo hit the bar instead of putting it into an open goal. Gundogan might have made a difference and Grealish will have less frustrating nights.
90+4 min PSG 2 Man City 0
Mahrez takes and smashes it into the crowd over the left angle of bar and post.
90+3 min PSG 2 Man City 0
Another City free-kick, right fo centre for a foul on Mahrez, this one 20 yards out. Mbappe lies down behind the wall this time.
90 min PSG 2 Man City 0
Mahrez begins the first of four minutes of stoppage time with a left-foot shot around the wall - Messi is acting as the draught-excluder - but Donnarumma has a clear sight of it and palms it to the right.
88 min PSG 2 Man City 0
City free-kick 25 yards out to the right when Gueye fouls Mahrez.
Before it is taken Danilo replaces Gueye and the ref tells him to get off at the quickest exit point after he dawdled for several moments. Now PSG are arguing about the precise location of the free-kick.
86 min PSG 2 Man City 0
Mbappe makes himself the one in another one-two, this time with Neymar but the angle is too tight to beat Ederson when he shoots from the left of the box.
83 min PSG 2 Man City 0
— BT Sport (@btsport) September 28, 2021
City have played well but have never managed to get at the back four without Verratti, Herrera or Gueye back there to supplement them and hassle the City man in possession. Pochettino has set them up shrewdly tonight.
81 min PSG 2 Man City 0
Mahrez cushions the ball from Bernardo's cross, works it on to his left and, from an angle of only about 20 degrees from the left post, hits his shot at Donnarumma. Would have taken an epic blunder or a pile-driver to have a hope of beating the keeper from there.
79 min PSG 2 Man City 0
Verratti leaves the fray, replaced by Wijnaldum.
Gabriel Jesus comes on for Sterling.
77 min PSG 2 Man City 0
Verratti is booked for a hack at Sterling's shins, Laporte for some shoving with Neymar.
76 min PSG 2 Man City 0
He's only gone and done it. The soft-shoe shuffle as he tacked in from the right followed by a one-two with Mbappe whose back-heel gave it back to Messi 20 yards out. Two more touches, one to tap it out from his feet, the next to bend a shot into the top left corner.
Who writes his scripts?
PSG 2-0 Man City (Messi)
74 min PSG 1 Man City 0
Laporte tackles Neymar cleanly and competently when the Brazil forward stormed forward down the inside-left.
73 min PSG 1 Man City 0
Another City corner when Nuno Mendes slides in to put Walker's cross behind. Marwuinhos wins the header from De Bruyne's outswinger.
70 min PSG 1 Man City 0
Kimpembe is astutely placed to stop Foden's cross reaching Sterling, then De Bruyne whips a right-foot shot, with his instep from the left of the D, a foot wide of the left post.
68 min PSG 1 Man City 0
Flag goes up late after Grealish is brilliantly tackled by Verratti as he tried to tiptoe through the six-yard box sewn with PSG boots. It's Grealish's last act. Guardiola sends on Foden to replace him.
67 min PSG 1 Man City 0
Fantastic recovery from Walker to catch Messi who had turned on his own turbo to blast into the box on a dribble from the right after PSG hustle the ball forward from the City corner. Walker draws parallel and toes the ball to the right, forcing Messi to snatch at a shot to stop the ball going out of play and flash it into the side-netting.
64 min PSG 1 Man City 0
City corner after Verratti slides in to knock out Sterling's attempted cut-back. Marquinhos wins the header and Donnarumma bats it away.
62 min PSG 1 Man City 0
Neymar's famous low pain threshold strikes again when the wind blows against his knee. De Bruyne buys the act and kicks it out of play, much to Walker's annoyance. After a howl and a quick rub from the physio, Neymar is OK.
60 min PSG 1 Man City 0
Cancelo has been a real threat all night and whips a right-footed pass down the inside-left channel. De Bruyne closes in on it but before he can prod it past Donnarumma, the keeper at full-stretch, slaps it down and Nuno hooks it away.
59 min PSG 1 Man City 0
Gueye tackles Mahrez just as he was cocking his left leg to shoot from the right of the D having scuttled across the 18-yard line looking for a gap.
57 min PSG 1 Man City 0
City are much the better side now and have been for ages. Gueye, though, is getting through plenty of work to help out his defenders and Verratti is spoiling to great effect.
55 min PSG 1 Man City 0
Donnarumma with another smart save, this time from De Bruyne's shot when teed up by Cancelo. The Italy goalkeeper and European champion saves the right-foot angled drive with his feet.
54 min PSG 1 Man City 0
Verratti barrels over Grealish who is not awarded a free-kick. Amazing how some tunes change between Grealish hitting the deck playing in Premier League and Champions League. The referee has given him nish tonight.
52 min PSG 1 Man City 0
Donnarumma dives forward and spills a cross Sterling expected him to swallow. Had he followed it in he would have had a chance of a tap-in.
50 min PSG 1 Man City 0
City are dominating possession, penning PSG back, probing left and right and working the ball across from one to the other. De Bruyne glides down the inside-right and is picked out by Mahrez but his cross is blocked and City come again.
48 min PSG 1 Man City 0
Gabriel Jesus and Phil Foden are warming up. Grealish is penalised for a push on Hakimi when both chased a bouncing ball. The £100m is not impressed by the referee nor his performance throughout the game.
47 min PSG 1 Man City 0
Good chance for Sterling with a falling left-foot shot from a tightish angle when slipped through from the left by Bernardo. He threads the shot through Marquinhos's legs successfully but sends it past the far post.
46 min PSG 1 Man City 0
Gueye seems to be running freely still after the break when the calf, after being kicked, can seize up.
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) September 28, 2021
Here's Bernardo's Ronny Rosenthal special
Half-time PSG 1 Man City 0
City carry on pressing until the whistle, confident that they will eventually be able to outrun, overpower and outperform PSG whose midfield, one would think, must tire eventually given their workload. Having said that Neymar and Mbappe are tracking back far more than they did last year to help out and spread the physical burden.
45+3 min PSG 1 Man City 0
Diving defensive header from Hakimi thwarts another City attack.
45+2 min PSG 1 Man City 0
Solid defensive shift from Neymar to put himself between Mahrez and the ball after the City winger trapped the cross on his chest to try to set up a half-volley. Neymar was strong enough to hold him off until Kimpembe marmalised a clearance upfield.
45 min PSG 1 Man City 0
City corner after Mbappe tracks all the way back to left-back to help out the beleaguered Nuno Mendes. De Bruyne whips it to the back post where Ruben Dias has eluded his marker but pumps his header too close to Donnarumma who bats it behind for another. We'll have four minutes of stoppage time.
43 min PSG 1 Man City 0
City have created more chances this 45 than they did in the first half here back in April which should give them comfort. And remember how masterly City were in that second half when PSG's midfield ran out of puff.
42 min PSG 1 Man City 0
Booking for De Bruyne for a savage tackle on Gueye, with foot raised and studs planted into his shin and calf. VAR looks at it while Gueye receives lengthy treatment but does not recommend doubling the tariff.
39 min PSG 1 Man City 0
Good, one-handed save from Ederson after Mbappe sprinted down the inside left and squared to Herrera. Ederson tips it over but PSG take the corner short and quickly. Mbappe skitters into the area from the left, draws Walker and Dias then slips a pass through the six-yard box that Marquinhos would have reached had he not cut his toe nails for a month. Let off for City.
37 min PSG 1 Man City 0
City have sussed that PSG's defence is wide open on one side, City's right, PSG's left. Mahrez picks out De Bruyne's diagonal run from the centre out to the right of the box but the City midfielder flicks his right-foot shot into Donnarumma's chest.
35 min PSG 1 Man City 0
Messi shoots over from an offside position when Mbappe inadvertently sets him up while trying to fashion some space to shoot.
33 min PSG 1 Man City 0
Bernardo faces up Mendes on the right of the PSG box, sends him one way with his shimmy then cuts back to the right and the byline to ping a cross/shot too close to Donnarumma while Nuno went off for a pint of milk and an Evening Times.
32 min PSG 1 Man City 0
Cancelo cuts in from the left to wallop a right-foot, curling shot that Donnarumma catches with asbestos hands.
30 min PSG 1 Man City 0
Walker uses his pace and nose for danger to thwart a rapid-fire PSG counter after the double ringing of the cross-bar. City corner after the referee fails to punish Herrera with a yellow card for a deliberate, sorry, technical hack at Grealish. Mahrez and Sterling work it down the inside right but Hererra gets back to prod it behind.
When the corner comes in Ruben Dias is flattened by Kimpembe off the ball but the referee bizarrely gives the foul the other way.
29 min PSG 1 Man City 0
Lots of praise for Messi from Messrs Keown and Fletcher for his slow-slow-quick-quick-slow play today and his lovely little passes inside and down the channels. But his lack of defensive work is allowing De Bruyne, Grealish and Cancelo overwhelm Hakimi at times.
27 min PSG 1 Man City 0
Oh my goodness. Excellent cross from De Bruyne from the left with the outside of his right foot, Sterling had peeled between the centre-backs and met it with a header that he fizzes on to the bar. Bernardo pounces before the dawdling Nuno Mendes and with Donnarumma on the ground, pokes a half-volley back on to the cross-bar instead of an empty net.
26 min PSG 1 Man City 0
Donnarumma comes off his line to the edge of the area and hoofs the ball into touch to prevent Sterling getting on the end of De Bruyne's pass.
24 min PSG 1 Man City 0
Cancelo goes knee to knee from the side on Mbappe to bring him down and stop him racing away from halfway to with half the pitch undefended. Yellow card for City's left-back.
22 min PSG 1 Man City 0
Two excellent tackles by Rodri on Messi and Walker in Mbappe stop both of them from shooting.
20 min PSG 1 Man City 0
City corner on the left after Nuno Mendes hacks it behind when Marquinhos failed to clear at the first attempt under pressure from Sterling. De Bruyne takes it long. looking for Mahrez to volley but he is quickly closed down and Verratti robs De Bruyne when he tries to ignite another attack.
17 min PSG 1 Man City 0
City corner after diligent work from Mahrez against Kimpembe. City take it short then whip it deep where Verratti stops Grealish by hooking his leg in front of his opponent's but the referee is unpersuaded and waves play on. Marquinhos lumps it clear to halfway and Laporte heads it back upfield.
15 min PSG 1 Man City 0
Neymar tries a donkey kick which I thought had been banned shortly after the Ernie Hunt/Willie Carr special. PSG take some risks in their penalty area when hounded by Sterling and Mahrez, stroking it about too casually but they get away with it when the referee awards them a free-kick for a soft Sterling push.
12 min PSG 1 Man City 0
City have regrouped well and continue to play their normal pressing and passing game, exploiting Messi's unwillingness to track back as Grealish and Bernardo almost get in behind Hakimi but Grealish's last pass is too heavy and rolls out for a goal-kick.
10 min PSG 1 Man City 0
City lapse out by their left corner flag. Hakimi, with Messi and Mbappe overloading, cuts in, hares towards the box and puts it on a plate for Neymar at the near post. But he miskicks it completely and it flies towards the back post. Mahrez, surprised that it got to him, has his feet in the wrong position and can only stab it a yard or so. Gueye gobbles it up, shifts it on to his right and thumps a shot into the roof of the net in the top right corner. Great finish.
PSG 1 City 0 (Gueye)
7 min PSG 0 Man City 0
Verratti and Herrera combine to work the ball out for Messi on the right. He skitters, as only he does, trying to judge the ideal moment to sprint into the dribble but as he tacks infield Grealish stands his ground and follows him all the way, preventing him from wrapping his left foot around it to shoot.
5 min PSG 0 Man City 0
Laporte takes up the perfect position to block Messi's attempt to whisk the ball out to the right from the centre-circle and City take possession and build patiently up the left with De Bruyne.
4 min PSG 0 Man City 0
Cancelo chips a pass over Hakimi for Grealish to chase down the left wing but he was caught offside by a false start.
3 min PSG 0 Man City 0
City free-kick out on the left. 35-40 yards out from goal. De Bruyne whips in a right-footed inswinging cross for Dias but he can't get it down or impart enough power on it.
1 min PSG 0 Man City 0
City kick off, wearing all white, attacking from left to right. The players of both sides take a knee before Raheem Sterling jumps the whistle and has to kick off again, rolling it back to Laporte who brings it forward up the left for Grealish. He switches it back inside and City chip it up the right for Walker to chase into the box but the giant squid himself, Donnarumma, races out to slide and gather.
Our dream commentary team
Are Darren 'Fletch' Fletcher and Martin 'Martin Keown' Keown. Blessed!
Are you ready?
Ce sont les meilleures équipes
Sie sind die allerbesten Mannschaften
The main event
Les grandes équipes
Pep is unusually cheerful tonight pre-match
Our intention is always to do our best. This kind of game, the players are not tired because they are so excited, the trip was comfortable, the city is so nice, so there were no complaints.
I enjoyed Messi for years, so I am ready to suffer a little bit. [Players like him] are too good! We have an idea what game we want to do, and we will try it.
Wijnaldum omission is odd
He's the only available Champions League winner in PSG's midfield ranks (discounting Di Maria, who is suspended, and Rafinha, who didn't play in the 2015 final) but was on the bench for the first group game and rides the pine again.
Your teams in black and white
Paris Saint-Germain Donnarumma; Hakimi, Marquinhos, Kimpembe, Nuno Mendes; Gueye, Verratti, Ander Herrera; Messi, Mbappe, Neymar.
Substitutes Navas, Paredes, Icardi, Danilo Pereira, Dagba, Wijnaldum, Kurzawa, Diallo, Draxler, Kehrer, Ebimbe, Letellier.
Manchester City Ederson, Walker, Dias, Laporte, Joao Cancelo, Bernardo Silva, Rodri, De Bruyne, Mahrez, Grealish, Sterling.
Substitutes Steffen, McAtee, Stones, Ake, Gabriel Jesus, Steffen, Torres, Fernandinho, Carson, Foden, Wilson-Esbrand.
Referee Carlos del Cerro Grande (Spain).
PSG's XI in video format
🎙 Pre-match: Paris Saint-Germain v Manchester City at the Parc des Princes 🔴🔵 https://t.co/tnSDuxVfo5
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) September 28, 2021
Messi's in the stadium
But is he in the side?
That's quite the selection surprise
Most of the previews suggested Phil Foden would play in the forward three or, failing that, Gabriel Jesus or Ferran Torres not Raheem Sterling..
Raheem Sterling starts for Manchester City
Here's how we're lining up in Paris! 📋
XI | Ederson, Walker, Dias (C), Laporte, Cancelo, Rodrigo, Bernardo, De Bruyne, Mahrez, Sterling, Grealish.
SUBS | Steffen, Carson, Stones, Ake, Jesus, Torres, Fernandinho, Foden, McAtee, Wilson-Esbrand.
🔷 #ManCity pic.twitter.com/K2sDdnFyRN
— Manchester City (@ManCity) September 28, 2021
Merely five months ago Paris Saint-Germain were hosting Manchester City in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final at Parc des Princes. It was a fabulous match, dominated by PSG from the start with slick and devastatingly sharp movement, using one-twos and rapid-fire triangular moves to beat City's press.
They took a deserved 1-0 lead when Marquinhos met a wickedly fast and flat Angel Di Maria corner and bulleted a header past Ederson. There was some very robust tackling on Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, which he took predictably stoically, from Cancelo in particular and early in the second half Pep Guardiola withdrew him to spare him a red card.
After half-time City pushed their full-backs further forward, Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden whirled between the central and left sided positions, interchanging with a frequency that bamboozled PSG. De Bruyne then diddled Keylor Navas from a corner and Riyad Mahrez thumped a free-kick through a flimsy wall to win the tie 2-1 as PSG's frustration and petulance mounted, culminating in a filthy foul by Idrissa Gueye on Ilkay Gundogan which earned him first dibs on the soap.
PSG could not escape City's press at the Etihad, losing 2-0 by virtue of two Mahrez goals, but tonight Lionel Messi would offer another way, beyond the successful ploy of using plenty of give and goes in the first-half of the semi-final home leg last season, to break the stranglehold with his dribbling and lethal lurking. Even if he's fit to play only an hour, there is no point having Messi unless you are going to employ him for a match like this.
For the home side, who have won eight from eight in Ligue 1 but drew their first group game with Bruges, Angel Di Maria is suspended following his red card in April for childishly booting Fernadinho, Sergio Ramos has yet to make his PSG debut because of the calf strain that kept him out of the Euros, Gigi Donnarumma, though, has returned to full fitness along with defenders Layvin Kurzawa, Juan Bernat and Colin Dagba. Euro winner Marco Verratti remains a doubt but Gueye has served the ban he received for his foul on Gundogan and is available to make his European debut this season.
For City Gundogan has been ruled out and Oleksandr Zinchenko is 50-50, but everyone else is fit and Nathan Ake, who played in the 6-3 victory over RB Leipzig, John Stones and Aymeric Laporte, the Premier League incumbent, are all desperate to partner Ruben Dias.
Join us for the team news from 6.45ish.