The city of light became a void of darkness for reigning English and Carabao Cup champions Manchester City, who were shutout by Paris Saint-Germain 2-0 at the Parc Des Princes on Tuesday, Sept. 28 in matchday two of the UEFA Champions League group stages.
Pep Guardiola’s men entered the Parc with wind in their sails. The team had just defeated reigning European champions Chelsea FC in the Premier League, and were on a five game winning streak in all competitions. In like manner, PSG had won all eight of their opening eight league matches, and were finally beginning to “click” under second year manager Mauricio Pochettino.
The Citizens lined up with Ederson in goal, and had a backline that consisted of Kyle Walker, Ruben Dias, Aymeric Laporte and Joao Cancelo. In midfield, Rodrigo Cascante lined up behind Bernardo Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, while the forward partnership consisted of Riyad Mahrez, Raheem Sterling and Jack Grealish.
Paris Manager Mauricio Pochettino’s struggle to field the ideal starting 11 was a problem that had plagued the Argentine manager since the start of the new campaign. Multiple formations were experimented with, and various players were shifted around, but there still seemed to be something missing. On Tuesday, he went with what — on paper — was the best possible squad he could field.
Gianluigi Donnarumma made his Champions league debut in goal, while the backline consisted of Nuno Mendes, Presnel Kimpembe, Marquinhos and Achraf Hakimi. Idrissa Gana Gueye lined up behind a rusty Marco Verratti and a red hot Ander Herrera while the forward partnership consisted of Neymar Jr., Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi.
City immediately started off on the front foot in a move that did not come as a surprise to the majority of football fans due in large part to the fact that The Sky Blues are a possession-based team that will look to score from the offset. Paris would attempt to hit them on the counterattack from time to time, but City’s ability to quickly recover the ball after a loss in possession made this task very difficult.
Finally, in the eighth minute of the match, the Parisians were able to catch Pep’s men out of position. Messi was in City’s final third when he found Mbappe, who played a give-and-go with fullback Achraf Hakimi. Right as the ball was about to reach the end line, Mbappe cut it back towards the 18 yard box. Neymar would miss-hit the ball, but Gueye was right there to control the ball and smash it into the top right corner to give PSG the early lead.
However, City would not fold that easily. In the 26th minute, Grealish found De Bruyne right outside Paris’ 18 yard box. The Belgian proceeded to play a one touch cross into the box which was headed against the crossbar by Sterling. Silva was right there to put the rebound into the back of an empty net (as Donnarumma was on the ground after attempting to save the header), but the Portuguese international inexplicably hit the crossbar again. Parisian center back Marquinhos was then able to clear the ball and take the pressure off of the defense.
Possession would continue to be dominated by City throughout both halves, as they finished the match with 54 percent possession in comparison to Paris’ percent. Nevertheless, no matter how hard they tried, they could not find their way past a stubborn PSG defense. Moreover, when they did get past the defense, Donnarumma would be right there to keep any potential shots out of the net. In total, the Italian international made seven saves and had six punches.
Paris continued to attempt and catch the Citizens on the counter attack many times throughout the second half, but once again failed to be efficient in the final third. Then, in the 74th minute, “Les Parisiens” were able to catch City out of position for the second time in the match. Messi would receive a ball from Verratti in his own half; the Argentine would then dribble toward the City penalty box while Hakimi made a run to draw a defender away from the area. “La Pulga” would then play a give-and-go with Mbappe at the top of the box before smashing it into the top right corner to score PSG’s second of the night, and his first ever goal for the club in all competitions.
“I’m very happy to have scored. I haven’t played much recently. I’m gradually adapting to my new team, to my teammates. What is important is to have won and continue to grow,” Messi told French media outlet Canal+.
Messi’s goal completely took the wind out of City’s sails and killed any hope of a comeback. The referee would blow his final whistle 20 minutes later, and PSG would record their first ever win against City in the Champions League.
“I celebrated Leo’s goal. I usually keep my emotions inside. I’ve spent years watching him score goals for the opposition, but this time I got to celebrate on the right side,” Pochettino told French media outlet RMC Sport.
Furthermore, the Argentine manager discussed his overall thoughts on the match with RMC Sport. “I’m happy because the team was able to control the phases of the game when they were under pressure. We were able to suffer when Manchester City dominated us, and the team did the job well together,” he said.
The match’s opening goal scorer, Gueye, expanded on the overall strategy going into the squad’s monumental clash. “We knew it was not going to be an easy game and we were able to defend well, play on the counterattack, and sometimes keep the ball and have opportunities to score,” he said.
Donnarumma was able to secure a clean sheet in his first ever Champions League match; he analyzed his debut with Sky Italia. “I was dreaming of such a start in the Champions League. To play with such champions at PSG is really incredible, they help you a lot, they make you grow,” he said.
Finally, Guardiola gave a brief but accurate synopsis of the match to PA Media sports journalist Andy Hampson. “The quality they [PSG] have is fantastic. Everyone knows it. We did a good game, but we should have scored goals and we didn’t,” he said.
PSG has now leapfrogged itself into first place in Group A with four points, while Belgian side Club Brugge sits in second and has four points as well. City now sits in third with three points, while German side RB Leipzig sits in fourth with zero points.
Paris now prepares to take on Stade Rennais in Ligue 1 on Sunday, Oct. 3 at 7 a.m., while City returns to Premier League action against Liverpool FC on Sunday, Oct. 3 at 11:30 a.m. in what will be a can’t miss match.