Paris Saint-Germain was considered by some to be the favorites over a struggling Real Madrid side heading into the first leg of their UEFA Champions League tie. For 75 minutes, the game panned out like most expected with the score tied at 1-1 at halftime but it was crucial misses by Kylian Mbappé and Dani Alves and substitutions made by the two managers in the second half that essentially decided the game.
Paris withstood Madrid’s fast start and shocked the hosts when Adrien Rabiot scored a vital away goal. Neymar Jr.’s slick flick off of Mbappé’s cross into the box set up the Frenchman who finished calmly. Madrid answered in stoppage time right before the halftime whistle with what PSG supporters would call a soft penalty. Alphonse Areola, who had an unbelievable game, came within inches of saving Cristiano Ronaldo’s penalty but ultimately came up just short. In the second half, PSG had the chance to take the tie away from Madrid in their own backyard when Mbappé came close to scoring and Alves had a fantastic scoring opportunity but Sergio Ramos did his job well.
The turning point for me had to be the substitutions made by Zinedine Zidane and Unai Emery, which turned the match into a cagey affair. Emery decided to take out Edinson Cavani, who can score in a flash for defender Thomas Meunier while Zidane chose to go more offensive and put in Gareth Bale, Lucas Vázquez, and Marco Asensio. This should tell you everything you need to know about the intentions of the two managers. Emery was holding out for a draw or a narrow win and Zidane decided to roll the dice and go for the win.
After Asensio came into the game, Madrid looked like a completely different outfit and exposed PSG’s weaknesses on the counter. Ronaldo scored a fortuitous second goal to put his side into the ascendency by capitalizing on a rare error from Areola. It was Marcelo’s goal off a tantalizing cross from Asensio that has tilted the tie in favor of Los Blancos. PSG wasn’t that far off from leaving the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium with a favorable result but a couple of mistakes, in the end, might cost them another shot at Champions League glory.
Paris Saint-Germain host RC Strasbourg Alsace on February 17 but before we look ahead to their Ligue 1 match, check out the best photos from a disappointing night in Madrid: