From Hunters to the Hunted: PSG In Trouble After Loss to Dortmund

After a demoralizing 2-1 defeat to Borussia Dortmund at Signal Iduna Park on Tuesday night, Paris Saint-Germain has gone from the hunters to the hunted and they’re wounded.

The loss has PSG 90 minutes away from another UEFA Champions League exit in the Round of 16 and not even the most ardent supporter can say they don’t deserve to be in this position.

When PSG’s starting lineup was released, I wasn’t terribly upset about Thomas Tuchel’s choices. Considering several players were just returning to the squad after injury, like Neymar Jr., and Dortmund’s speed advantage, I thought Tuchel abandoning the 4-4-2 formation made sense.

Unfortunately, Dortmund manager Lucien Favre “anticipated PSG’s system” as he would admit in his post-match comments to RMC Sport (via GFFN).

From the opening whistle, it was painfully obvious how much faster Dortmund was compared to PSG. This sprint from Erling Haaland is the perfect example of the difference in pace between the two sides.

Dortmund were clearly the aggressors in the first half and PSG only made it to halftime with the score level at 0-0 thanks to last-ditch defending from Layvin Kurzawa and Marco Verratti and key saves from Keylor Navas. Everyone knew they were on thin ice, though.

With two of the highest-scoring teams in Europe on display, there was no way the match would finish at 0-0 and it wouldn’t as Haaland poached a goal in the 69th minute. Again, he was just quicker to the ball than every PSG defender and Navas stood no chance from that kind of range.

PSG got up off the mat and found an equalizer, and more importantly, an away goal, in the 75th minute. Kylian Mbappé stretched his legs and weaved through the Dortmund defense and after jumping over Dan-Axel Zagadou in the penalty box, the Frenchman picked out Neymar Jr. wide open in front of goal for the easy score.

The celebrations were short-lived though. Two minutes after Neymar’s goal, Haaland smashed a shot from distance into the back of the net with so much force it sounded as if he had broken the goal.

Neymar nearly found another equalizer in the 81st minute but his left-footed shot hit the post. Les Parisiens tried to mount a late comeback but it never came to fruition and reality set in once the referee ended the match.

During his post-match press conference, via Le Parisien, Tuchel was asked if he was satisfied with the way his players entered the game.

“Yes, but we lack confidence. It was necessary to play more free. We played with too much fear of making a mistake. It’s not good…We are too afraid to make mistakes and if we think about them too much, they happen. We lost easy balls in situations that didn’t require it.”

When asked how he would explain the lack of efficiency, Tuchel made a cringe-worthy excuse about playing more games than Dortmund.

“We play twice as much as Dortmund. We had a lot of concerns about injuries to key players. They lacked the rhythm, the hardness of competition. Neymar, for example, did not play for seventeen days. It should have been a less physical match in the end. It is not trivial. We couldn’t push high enough because we made too many mistakes.”

Neymar echoed his manager’s comments during his post-match interview where he said that he wanted to play in the games leading up to the Dortmund match but that the club was afraid. Essentially, he blamed the doctors for playing it too safe and it had an effect on him.

Both Thiago Silva and Presnel Kimpembe said after the match that Tuchel’s system, a 3-4-3, shouldn’t be blamed for the result and the Frenchman went as far as to say that the players are to blame.

“It has nothing to do with the tactical scheme, it is us who play, they are the same players on the field, it is up to us to make the will and what it takes to take the points,” Kimpembe said. “Tonight we lost but we still have a return match at home.”

Verratti, who will miss the return leg due to receiving his third yellow card in the competition, remained optimistic even if PSG will be without his services at the Parc des Princes on March 11.

“In the last Champions League matches, we won the first leg before being eliminated on the return. It is played over 180 minutes. There are things we have to do better, we are going to play at home. The goal we scored tonight is very important.”

If there’s one team that knows all about comeback wins in the Champions League, it’s PSG. Let’s just hope they’re the ones advancing to the next round this time.

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Tags Borussia Dortmund Champions League Dan-Axel Zagadou Erling Braut Haaland Kylian Mbappé Marco Verratti Neymar Presnel Kimpembe Thiago Silva Thomas Tuchel