This is the worst Paris Saint-Germain will look all season and they still defeated Manchester City 2-0 in a highly-anticipated UEFA Champions League clash. All of Europe is officially on notice.
On Tuesday night in front of a raucous crowd at the Parc des Princes, PSG held the reigning Premier League champions scoreless while netting two fantastic goals from Idrissa Gueye and Lionel Messi.
Mauricio Pochettino, who had come under some pressure given PSG’s underwhelming performances this season, got it right against City both with his starting lineup and tactics.
His decision to start Gianluigi Donnarumma over Keylor Navas is a controversial one, but it paid off as the Italy international saved all seven of City’s shots on goal. It also took nerves of steel to start 19-year-old Nuno Mendes at left-back. PSG signed the youngster from Sporting CP on transfer deadline day and against City, he held Riyad Mahrez in check and contributed to PSG’s counter-attack as well.
🚨 Tonight’s starting XI 🆚 @ManCity
Marco Verratti and Leo Messi return after injury! #PSGMCI | #UCL pic.twitter.com/JZZzO9qSGp
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) September 28, 2021
Tactically, Pochettino gave many supporters heartburn by conceding possession to City and inviting pressure for most of the match, but it paid off in the end.
PSG only had three shots on goal, but they scored on two of them. When you have Neymar Jr., Kylian Mbappé, and Messi in your attack, you don’t need seven shots on target to score. Hopefully, Pep Guardiola was taking notes.
The Messi goal, in particular, was special for so many reasons. It was his first in a PSG shirt and it came under the bright lights of the Champions League against elite competition.
JUST LISTEN TO THE ROAR THAT COULD BE HEARD ALL OVER PARIS
Notice how Messi instantly points to Mbappé who provided the brilliant assist 🔥 pic.twitter.com/aa5n6FAtaq
— mx (@MessiMX30i) September 28, 2021
The former FC Barcelona man (love typing that) received a pass from Marco Verratti at the halfway line and made his way towards the goal. Achraf Hakimi’s run on the flank took a defender away from Messi and opened up enough space for him to pick out a pass to Mbappé. Almost telepathically, Mbappé knew the pass was only meant for one reason, to give it back to Messi, which he did and then the GOAT blasted a shot past Ederson, and the Parc absolutely erupted.
Switching gears to the defense, Ander Herrera, Verratti, and Gueye (who was awarded the Man of the Match) did the dirty work in midfield while the back four of Presnel Kimpembe, Marquinhos, Hakimi, and Mendes had their best game of the season. From Verratti’s tussle with Jack Grealish to Hakimi’s diving header to prevent a goal, the desire to defend was infectious and I have to admit, it was completely unexpected.
Throughout Ligue 1 play this season, PSG has leaked goals from set-pieces, and recently, they needed stoppage-time goals to defeat Olympique Lyonnais and FC Metz. To go from that to shutting out City is nothing short of spectacular.
Away from the goals, tactics, and lineup, there was an incident in the first half that needs to be addressed. Kevin De Bruyne’s stomp on Gueye’s leg was absolutely horrific and should have been a straight red card. Instead, match referee, Carlos del Cerro Grande, awarded the City star a yellow card while Gueye writhed in obvious pain after having his leg nearly snapped.
absolutely disgusting from De Bruyne, should have been sent off. pic.twitter.com/7LVgiMastt
— Galu (@PSGalu) September 28, 2021
From what I understand of the rules, VAR did not review the play because it was not a straight red card. If it was, VAR would have determined whether the decision was accurate or not. I’ve watched the replay several times and the referee was in the perfect position to see the tackle and still didn’t think it was a straight red card. Make of that what you will.
So, where does PSG go from here? As I mentioned earlier, this is the worst that PSG will look this season. It’s going to take time for all of the new players to learn how to play as a cohesive unit. Also, when Sergio Ramos returns from injury, that will allow Pochettino to deploy a three-at-the-back formation, which many supporters, including myself, feel is the best way to optimize the output of the squad.
Despite the obvious growing pains in what many are calling a “super team,” Paris Saint-Germain remains undefeated this season. They’re top of the table in Ligue 1 and lead Group A in the Champions League. Not bad for a team still figuring things out.