Messi finally scored for PSG. But actually Man City was much better
The main question on the eve of the most Hollywood match of the group stage of the Champions League – will all three PSG superstars come out from the first minutes? There were several reasons for this question.
Messi got into the application, but it seemed like he was injured. Although the injury itself was in doubt, because it surprisingly coincided with his displeasure with the replacement. It is good if he recovered from the injury, and very bad if the micro problem was inflated by the club’s PR service to the injury in order to hide the conflict. But there was another reason to expect surprises from the starting lineup. Messi , Neymar and Mbappe at the base are hell not only for the opposing defenders, but also for their own midfield.
Fortunately for Mauricio Pochettino , Verratti recovered and was ready to play from the first minutes. In addition to him, Pochettino released Geye and Herrera , clearly wanting to get maximum mobility and endurance in the center of the field.
Manchester City played 4-3-3 with Canselo on the left flank. There was a question about the center forward: who will be the false nine, Bernard , De Bruyne or Grilish in general ? Pep Guardiola made an unexpected, but in principle conservative decision and played with a real striker. Sterling came out on top .
but unexpectedly missed the ball and rolled it slightly instead of hitting it. But Geye played the first on the rebound . A man who, in voting for the author of a goal in this match, would have taken one of the last places – but hit perfectly, in the top nine.
The goal greatly knocked the game out of rhythm: PSG caught hold of the ball several more times, the guests’ pressure went wrong, so the hosts even carried out a couple of positional attacks. Only 15 minutes later the City players returned to their previous intensity in the penalty area. Thereafter, and until the end of the half, the game proceeded according to the “possession versus the bus” scenario.
In positional defense, PSG used a hybrid system: Geye sat down as the fifth defender, and Mbappe returned to midfield. Apparently, this was a reaction to Bernard’s connections : he constantly shifted to the attack, while Walker or Marez created width on the flank. It would be difficult for the four to cope with such saturation of the first line, but the five in the line basically coped. Geye more often stayed against Marez , while Mendes kept his distance from Kimpembe .
Once in a time, PSG’s low block failed. Walker , Marez and Bernardo created an overload in the right semi-flank, and then, through Rodri, they quickly transferred the ball to Grilish to the left edge. Gaps formed, in one of them the ball was received by De Bruyne and perfectly hung on the goalkeeper’s line, where Sterling and Bernardo rushed in . Sterling hit the crossbar, and in some incomprehensible way Bernard hit the post, although he finished off half a meter into an empty net all alone.
The guests’ advantage is indicated by simple statistics: Geye’s kick was the only one struck at Ederson’s goal from outside the penalty area. While on goal Donnarumma from the penalty area was beaten seven times. At the end of the half, there was another significant moment when De Bruyne stepped on Geye’s foot . There was yellow and no injury, although there were immediately fears about both. Apparently, the decision was influenced by the fact that Geye himself went into the tackle, and De Bruyne might not have time to remove his leg.
The scenario of the second half could have been easily predicted: City will continue to press, since the score leaves no other options, and PSG will definitely have several opportunities to scatter in a counterattack.
In principle, it happened. Sterling could have scored right after the break, De Bruyne jumped to the goal at an angle after 10 minutes, but did not beat Donnarumma – that is, the constant pressure of the guests led to moments. But the Parisians also had a couple of casts on Mbappé rather quickly . One counterattack was spoiled by Mbappe with an inaccurate pass, in another Neymar burst into the penalty area, dragging the ball, and shot into the close one.
PSG counterattacks were too frequent to speak of a City dominance. After the break, the guests had a big advantage, territorially and in possession, but it could not be called a one-sided game. Not as much as at the beginning of the match.
In the 69th minute, Guardiola fired Foden instead of Grilish , and he revived the game a lot : he dealt with Hakimi on the flank several times and shot dangerously.
Perhaps, City lacked for a goal not some game elements, but just a forward: a player who was used to playing in the center of the penalty area, reacting to bounces and opening up in tight spaces. Well, to score from slaughter positions is also. The guests did not create moment by moment, but in terms of the sum of approaches, half-chances and obvious goal opportunities, they played a couple of goals for sure.
In this scenario, a lot depended on the implementation. And PSG turned out to be better. It took Messi four games to score the first goal since leaving Barcelona, but the goal was great. A long shot, under pressure – this is not even a chance to score for anyone else.
Messi scored a difficult goal in an unobvious situation, but the goal itself cannot be called completely accidental: the episode began again after an interception in his own half of the field, and after Hakimi ‘s sharp turn on the edge, the counterattack developed three into three. And the same Messi dragged the ball 30 meters without resistance, before beating Mbappe . The hosts had counter-attacks similar in structure in the second half.
Bottom line: City were clearly the best team in the first half and deserved to score even more than one goal per game overall. But the second goal killed the game, after which the guests did not create anything. PSG are still not convinced that such a squad is able to consistently achieve success in big matches. Still, the result was too much influenced by luck. But this is the Champions League, it is pointless to look for logic in this tournament. Well, yes, ignoring the incredible skill level of PSG’s attack group is also wrong. If someone should squeeze the maximum out of a few moments and refute logic, then these are these three.