• Benjamin Wolfe

De Bruyne, Mahrez on target in vital semi-final first-leg win - PSG 1-2 Manchester City Review

Manchester City take a first-leg lead away from the Parc Des Princes. An opening goal from Marquinhos was answered with goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez. City take not only a lead but two away goals into the second leg.

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There may have been some trepidation regarding the starting eleven Pep Guardiola would choose. He has a history of strange decisions in big Champions League games after all. Few though, I argue, would have been disappointed with his team here. Ederson started in goal with John Stones, Ruben Dias, Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo ahead of him. Rodri, Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva made up the midfield. Kevin De Bruyne started once again at false nine with Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez on either side of him. Arguably the strongest eleven we could have fielded at that moment in time.

Manchester City wrestled control of this Champions League semi-final away from PSG in a hard-fought and no doubt entertaining contest in Paris. Entertaining for the neutral of course but I and countless other City fans were too nervous for anything else.


City started the first few minutes of the game in the usual fashion, with possession and control of proceedings. However, over the course of the first half that control slipped, and PSG asserted themselves all over the pitch. In as little as three minutes, Ederson was called into action to deny a Neymar effort.



Rodri in particular was struggling in and out of possession and was causing problems for the City backline. He was not the only one struggling though. In the 12th minute, a bewildering solo run from Kyle Walker lost the ball in the centre circle and Pep Guardiola was furious.


Another save from Ederson from another shot by Neymar preceded the PSG goal in the 15th minute. The ball in from the corner was met by the head of Marquinhos and the French side had the lead. Ilkay Gundogan will not enjoy Pep’s analysis of this one as he just abandoned his man in the box.

Marquinhos' header gave the Parisians control of proceedings in the first half after finding himself unmarked at the near post to head in past a helpless Ederson.

City tried to force their way into the game but were unable to make much headway into the PSG defensive shape and were struggling to control proceedings at the other end. Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Angel Di Maria caused problems throughout the first 45 minutes, but for the most part, City held firm. Phil Foden had City’s best chance of the half after a square ball from Bernardo Silva reached the England star, but his effort lacked conviction and went straight at Keylor Navas.


It was not the performance that Pep would have wanted though by any means, and at half time he knew one thing: a vital away goal is a necessity. Apparently what Pep said to the players worked wonders because we saw the real Manchester City in the second half. PSG were pressed so hard the French club could bottle the juices and sell them. City allowed no attacks, no real threats and bossed the game for the remaining time. In the 61st minute, Kevin De Bruyne attempted a spectacular overhead kick which unfortunately sailed over the bar. Shortly after this, Joao Cancelo made way for Zinchenko.


Just two minutes later, Kevin De Bruyne scored the equaliser and that vital away goal. His cross to the back post eluded everyone, including the embarrassed Keylor Navas, and nestled neatly inside the post. The players erupted in celebration; their hard work had paid off.

Kevin De Bruyne's cross-turned-shot found its way into the far corner after it wasn't touched by anyone in the box, leaving Keylor Navas bewildered and PSG stunned.

To make things even better for City, they took the lead in the 71st minute. Riyad Mahrez stepped up to take a free-kick just outside the PSG box and his shot went right through the wall. Navas was furious, but City were in dreamland. Two away goals, and now also leading in the tie. On the goal, De Bruyne said: "He asked me if he could take it, I said if you believe in yourself you can take it. I have full confidence in all my team. He scored so who am I to say anything."

"I have full confidence in all my team. He scored so who am I to say anything."

PSG were disintegrating by this point. Frustrated at their inability to lay a finger in City in the second half. Neymar was booked for kicking Ruben Dias and in the 77th minute, Idrissa Gueye was sent off. Frustration in the French ranks boiled to the point where he decided to stamp on the Achilles of Ilkay Gundogan. The German was very lucky to escape serious injury and the Senegalese was rightly dismissed. Disgusting lack of professionalism.


City continued to play out the game, their hard work done. Phil Foden was unlucky not to extend the lead in the 87th minute. A jinking run culminating in a shot at the PSG goal but again it was straight at the goalkeeper.

The final whistle went, and City celebrated. The job is only half done, but at 1-0 down away in Europe they could have easily fell apart. They did not, they came back out and showed PSG another level. Do that again next week and we are in the Champions League final. Let’s go!


DE BRUYNE


He loves a goal against PSG, doesn’t he? This man deserves a Champions League trophy. He really does. He puts in huge performances year on year and this year could finally be the one in which he is fully rewarded for his efforts. That saying that you need luck in the Champions League? Take a look at his goal tonight. Maybe it’s our turn for some luck.

Three Champions League knock-out rounds. Three Champions League Man of the Match awards. Belgian Mastermind.



CITY’S DEFENSIVE EFFORTS


City were under huge pressure in that first half. PSG were all over us at times and even though some of the defending was last-ditch, it was still good defending. Neymar and Mbappe are no joke, and our defence marshalled them very well overall. Especially Walker, who even surprised Mbappe with his pace at one point when the England right-back took the ball off him at full sprint. Huge credit deserved.

PFA Player of Year case made very clear. Statement performance.


MAN OF THE MATCH


Kevin De Bruyne. I’m sorry Riyad! He was just at the heart of everything good, yet again, for City. He scored the opening goal, and he’s doing all this from a role that is not rightly his own. He’s an absolutely sensational player, who had a fantastic game at the highest level.

Chop wood, carry water. Huge performance after huge performance.

PLAYER RATINGS


EDERSON - 8

WALKER - 8

DIAS - 8

STONES - 8

CANCELO - 6

RODRI - 5

GUNDOGAN - 7

DE BRUYNE -9

BERNARDO - 7

FODEN - 6

MAHREZ - 8


Subs: Zinchenko – 7