Manchester City Rallies for Win vs. PSG in 1st Leg of Champions League Semifinal

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 28, 2021

Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne, 2nd left, celebrates with teammates after scoring his sides first goal during the Champions League semifinal first leg soccer match between Paris Saint Germain and Manchester City at the Parc des Princes stadium, in Paris, France , Wednesday, April 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Thibault Camus/Associated Press

Paris Saint-Germain might be wishing Manchester City had stayed in the European Super League.

The Parisians melted down in the second half and suffered a 2-1 defeat on Wednesday at Parc des Princes in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals.

With a little more than 60 minutes gone, PSG was flying high. By the 77th minute, things were unraveling for last season's Ligue 1 champion.

Following a sluggish start to the season, Manchester City has coasted past its domestic competition. The club is fresh off a victory over Tottenham Hotspur in the Carabao Cup, and it sits 10 points clear of rival Manchester United with five PL matches to play.

The stars seem aligned for Manchester City to enjoy its long-awaited Champions League triumph. Kevin De Bruyne's equalizer was another example that this could be the year for Pep Guardiola's side.

The Belgian attacker was unable to find either of his targets with a cross into the box, but PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas failed to react quickly enough as the ball tucked inside the far post.

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Navas shouldn't shoulder the blame for Riyad Mahrez's go-ahead tally in the 71st minute. Mahrez's free kick threaded its way through the PSG wall.

By reaching the 2020 Champions League final—and arguably equaling or perhaps even outplaying Bayern Munich in a 1-0 loss—many thought Paris Saint-Germain had turned a corner in Europe after suffering a string of disappointments. Instead, this will provide even more ammunition to those who argue there's something intangible missing with PSG.

Things started so brightly, too. Marquinhos got the Parisians on the score sheet first with a header in the 15th minute, a moment that appeared to be an ominous sign for Manchester City.

The Brazilian remains a man for the big moments, with OptaJoe noting he's one of three players along with Cristiano Ronaldo and Antoine Griezmann to have quarterfinal and semifinal goals in consecutive seasons.

Along with Marquinhos, the contributions of Angel Di Maria have occasionally gone overlooked because so much of the attention is drawn toward Kylian Mbappe and Neymar.

Di Maria delivered the corner that Marquinhos put into the back of the net, and he was a constant threat down PSG's right flank.

Having been the better team in the first half, Paris Saint-Germain didn't continue to press its advantage in the second half. That opened the door for Manchester City to wrest away control of the semifinals. Idrissa Gueye's red card in the 77th minute was a sign of how much PSG had lost its nerve.

City deserve credit for not losing its composure and sticking with the patient attacking approach that has served the club so well. If Presnel Kimpembe and Leandro Paredes hadn't allowed Mahrez's free kick to slip through the wall, you get the feeling Manchester City would've simply found a winner in a different fashion.

A one-goal deficit is far from insurmountable for Mauricio Pochettino's squad. With the way the players wilted, however, it's difficult to envision how Paris Saint-Germain can turn around and get the result it needs away from home.


What's Next?

City is back in action Saturday in the Premier League against Crystal Palace at 7:30 a.m. ET, while PSG hosts Lens in Ligue 1 at 11 a.m. ET. The two clubs will meet for the second leg of their UCL semifinal tie on May 4 at 3 p.m. ET.

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